Open Thread: Characters You'd Like To See Less of in Fiction

What are some sorts of characters you'd like to see less of in fiction? For me, I'm getting a little tired of the male protagonist whose father disappeared when the protag was a child, only for it to turn out that this event (a) makes the protag an heir to a massive great legacy of heroism, pluck, courage, intelligence, etc., and (b) the father is probably still alive somewhere but just as probably won't make it through the course of the movie/book series.

There's nothing WRONG with the trope, per se, I'm just kind of tired of it at this point. Maybe just once the protag's father could disappear and have it remain a random, unexplained mystery or something.

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216 comments:

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Alexander Unwyn Cherry said...

Characters who meet people who they have no particular reason to like or trust, only to suddenly like or trust them once it is revealed that these people are blood-related. "Oh, I know I have no history with you, and I know you're a vampire, but we share some genes, so that's okay! You're family!"

EdinburghEye said...

The male "I" or viewpoint character in a novel who just randomly turns out to be So Sexy that women who've just met him want to have sex with him.

Also (though this is about a character trait, not a character) the awfully predictable character-motivation of so many violent/heroic female characters "She Was Raped". One of the reasons I like "The Hunger Games" is that Katniss's motivation to kill is straightforwardly to survive - and to save her little sister.

Omskivar said...

Characters who are expected to turn out exactly like their parents. You mostly see it in the "Your [parent] was a horrible person and we can't expect you to be any different" sense (Murtagh from Eragon never being trusted no matter what he does because his father was an evil dragon rider), more than the "Your [parent] was a great person and we expect you to be just as good as they were" sense (Harry Potter being a natural Seeker because his dad was one).

Smilodon said...

I'd like to second this, and add another annoying instance of "Blood Relations Trump All".

Characters who take unexpected risks for each other, and then it's revealed that they were secretly blood relations so it All Makes Sense now. I care deeply about some people who aren't secretly my illegitamate children, or even my blood at all.

Isabel C. said...

* Characters whose whole deal is Parental Issues. Oh my God, I do not care. Are you over sixteen? Get an element of your own personality, one that isn't "Daddy didn't love me enough."
* ...and speaking of Supernatural, That Guy Who Just Wants to Be Normal. Oh, dear God, do I hate that guy. Yes, I know demon hunting is a hard life; I get that refusal of the call is a standard story element; but it is *a* story element, and should not last for an entire goddamn season.
* As I mentioned on Slacktiverse, the character who gets put in a weird metaphysical situation with distinct rules and immediately decides that those rules do not apply to her because she's special and she has all the feelings.
* Faux Action Girl, oh my God. There are ways to be strong other than the physical, and I'm fine with non-action protagonists, but...dude. If you want us to believe that your character is an awesome kickass woman, SHOW HER BEING AWESOME AND KICKASS. "Awesome and kickass" does not translate to "petulant and too stupid to live", KATE FROM LOST.
* Word to EdinburghEye, and I'd like to expand that to the attitude that any tough female character must be motivated by backstory trauma of some variety. The thing where Red Sonja kills people and takes stuff because standard-rape-and-murder-backstory, weird-and-creepy-oath, blah blah blah, and Conan does the same thing because he just kinda digs it bugs the fuck out of me.
* Love triangles. Oh my fucking God, I am tired of love triangles. I'm especially tired of the Betty-and-Veronica setup where one love interest represents the pure good side of the protagonist and the other represents the side that is complicated and called to darkness AND IT IS SO HARD TO CHOOSE WOE. Doubly tired of it when they also represent different aspects of the character's "heritage", by which I mean that Tanis Half-Elven can and should bite me.

....I may have some opinions here.

Rainicorn said...

Straight white cis people as the protagonists of all sci fi / fantasy / superhero movies, because the gatekeepers of Hollywood seem to think that "sci fi / fantasy story" and "queer and/or PoC protagonist" are mutually exclusive concepts.

Also, dysfunctional white suburban families. I am SO over dysfunctional white suburban families. If I never see another movie or book garner gushing critical praise for its portrayal of a dysfunctional white suburban family, it'll be too soon.

chris the cynic said...

You know that character who the protagonist meets early on/during training/captivity who is super likable and super helpful and generally awesome? You know how that character will either die pretty damn soon or turn out to be the head evil guy cleverly disguised as a helpful fellow [whatever]?

I'm sick of it.

I want the likable helpful character to not be doomed/evil. I refuse to believe that doomed and secretly evil are the only two possibilities for the likable helpful character.

Eruza said...

The childhood friend (in plenty of the JRPGs I've played) that's always jealous/secretly crushing on the protagonist but he doesn't know it. Naturally they end up together. She can sometimes be an overly "motherly" character just to emphasize that she is in fact wife-material and is therefore super feminine.

Nathaniel said...

The shoehorned in "I exist for the protagonist to screw someone." Otherwise known as The Love Interest. More a Hollywood than a book thing. But still exists. And also more often female than male, but can be vice versa. Does anyone actually like these characters?

Also, as with above, love triangles can jump down deep pits and never return. Ever. There's actually a really funny Archie movie parody trailer that shows how screwed up a real Betty/Veronica love triangle would be.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djRAiiFlCy8

GeniusLemur said...

Apologies in advance, this is going to be a rant.
CHOSEN ONES
They DON'T WORK. They've NEVER WORKED. It's a LAZY, STUPID cliche. How can you have any interest in the outcome when it's set in stone in advance? How can anyone be heroic when destiny will just hand them their victory, regardless? How can the sidekicks and mentors and such show faith when we know the prophecy is right (it always is) and their prime suspect is the chosen one (they always are). How can the hero be inspirational when everyone knows he's the chosen one, so he's gonna win? And what is there to do for anyone who opposes the tyrant/dark lord/whatever except sit on their butts and wait for the chosen one to show up? I could keep going, but you get the idea.

I remember the first time I saw The Matrix, and when the oracle tells him point-blank "you are not the one," I rolled my eyes and thought, "You're not fooling anyone, guys."

And no, the answer is not to concentrate on a sidekick instead of the chosen one, or have the chosen one be whiny about having to save the world, or play word games with the prophecy, or try and pull a bait-and-switch with who's the chosen one. The answer is to NOT HAVE A PROPHECY and NOT HAVE A CHOSEN ONE. Instead, have somebody like Frodo, who finds he could make a difference and steps up to the plate.

Randy Kay said...

The (typically male) character who is a total jerk, but is loved by everyone in-universe, and viewed as a god-like genius. They constantly are cruel and bullying to subordinates, who take the abuse willingly and view it was "tough love". I am very much tired of this character.

The female character who is cold, distant, and detached, and whom the story then makes more approachable by knocking her down a few pegs.

Isabel C. said...

Yes, in general.

I'm okay with Chosen Ones when it's less a matter of destiny than inheritance: a Vampire Slayer or a Green Lantern is okay, because it's more like inheriting a weird family business. They've got this power; a lot of people have also had this power; what they do with it is up to them, and while there are prophecies, they aren't generally specific.

But otherwise, yeah. In fact, I could really do without overly specific prophecies, period, though that's more of a story complaint than a character ones. If you want to give the characters some mystical idea of the future, make it vague. And maybe use tea leaves. Tea leaves are always fun. ("Your future contains...a sailboat.")

Lunch Meat said...

The woman who doesn't worry about her complexion/hairstyle/weight/fashion, not because that stuff is pointless and irrelevant to her, but because she isn't good at it and secretly resents it, and once someone gives her a fashion lesson/contacts/an awesome new diet, she realizes her potential, values it, and starts to use such things regularly.

The wife who micromanages her husband's personal life because he can't take care of himself, and this is a reason for admiration and evidence of being strong/competent. Terry Pratchett, I adore you in everything else, but this has to stop.

Randomosity said...

Great topic!

Boy and Girl meet. They dislike each other. By the end of the movie, they are swooning over with Twu Wuv. Both of these characters can be given pink slips.

Orphan boy (it's always a boy) who grows up to discover he's the long lost heir to the Empire. Don't you think the rest of the nobility would have something to say about that? Oh, but this complete unknown just saved the world so it's OK. No, kid. You didn't get the proper education an heir needs and you know nada about foreign policy and economics and whatever else it takes to successfully rule an Empire. But! I'd love to see a story that starts with the hero being crowned and then show him trying his best to rule and blowing it - and then discover he'd make a great figurehead and surround himself with advisors who know what they're doing.

Adventurous girl (this one's always a girl) who, instead of being the Chosen One rebels against society, chooses her own adventure, completes the adventure, and settles down to conform to society's expectations instead of being hailed as a hero. The girl's OK, I like characters who choose adventure, but can the rest of her culture actually take a long walk out the short airlock? She can marry and have as many kids as she wants, but can she also be a respected community leader like the adventuring boys get to be at the end? I hate the Rebellion to Conformity character arc with a flaming passion.

Women (these are always women) who are nothing more than accessories for the male hero. Roger Ebert calls these Perk Girls. They show up once, usually naked, and you often don't even see their heads. Or they'll be worn like a mantle, draped over the hero (and they're often be more than one). Or they'll be rewards for the hero's successful completion of the adventure.

The Designated Wet Blanket in caper stories. Often this is the only female character. She exists to threaten to leave the protagonist if he even thinks about doing One Last Heist. Cue the meticulous planning interspersed with her scolding and threatening and interfering. We know they're going to do the job anyway, get out of the story and let's get on with it.

Lunch Meat said...

Oh, and the quirky detective who is ALWAYS right, and yet somehow the chief forgets that they are right and refuses to listen to them the next time, and is always threatening to take away their badge.

And the character who is always vindicated for doing things that in real life would ruin everything for the side of good.

Cupcakedoll said...

Note for Eruza: I picked up a drawing book (How to draw Anime: Bishoujo Game Characters" and was fascinated to find it was also a guide to the JRPG/harem anime stereotypes. So when the characters in datesims and harem anime are all the same, it's on purpose. O_o

Redwood Rhiadra said...

While Harry is a big example of this trope (Harry's expected to be Gryffindor because all Potters are Gryffs, he's expected to fight for the Light because Potters are always champions of the Light, likes redheads because all Potters like redheads, etc.), Harry's dad was a Chaser, not a Seeker... (And "natural on a broom", which is presumably largely a matter of good reflexes, is at least a reasonable candidate for being inheritable, unlike many of the other traits.)

JonathanPelikan said...

Increasing the volume on love triangle hate. Particularly since most times when I see them, if they bothered to set up the triangle, either it's a foregone conclusion that's basically written into the stars that we're nonetheless supposed to take for super serials (TEAM JACOB) or it's the other extreme where they never resolve the triangle.

One of my favority-ist games, Record of Agarest War (one of the ones motivating me to a Huge Fanfiction Project I Will Never Complete Ever) is literally built on this Gods-damned trope. Five generations of a family, each one, the hero has to choose one of three possible love interests to make babby and continue the struggle. What happens to the other two? Well, when the protag and waifu go sacrifice themselves to become the seal holding up the world and stuff, they go with them, too. So that they can have an endless feuding love triangle even AFTER the resolution and choice for like eighty years.

Rrrrgh. It was probably all an excuse to write out each generation of love interests from the story anyway since it takes place in like 20-year intervals, even though some of them have superhuman lifespans and stuff. Just, the idea that the love triangle literally never stops even unto being sentenced to like eternal spiritual prison...

Also because my mind works this way often my solution to the love triangle solution is 'all on all. do it.' and there you go. Chock up another victory for freedom and polyamory.

I highly suspect that the love-triangle-forever thing is motivated by the same kind of thought that comes when somebody says that Married People are Boring and if we ever resolve the Unresolved Tension then there'll be nothing left... bull. It's like I say about smut; where most authors fade to black is where the story starts! and the same is true when a relationship is made. That's the start of the journey, not the end.

GeniusLemur said...

How about the "detective" who's quite obviously a murderous sociopath, but we're supposed to root for him and think his superiors are being mean for yelling at him when he's up to his neck in illegal activity, up to and including cold-blooded murder? (And the superiors always just yell at him and send him back to the streets, as opposed to hauling him up on charges and sending him to a maximum security prison for 37 consecutive life terms like they should.)
And on top of everything else, he's a terrible detective who only succeeds because easy clues that even an idiot like him can figure out constantly drop in his lap, so all he has to do is get in people's faces, punch them, and shoot them.

If you want a picture-perfect example of what I'm talking about, watch Joe Don Baker's "Mitchell."

JonathanPelikan said...

Huh. Wierd. I often have thoughts along the 'I wish this character existed less in fiction' vein but at the moment I'm coming up short, mentally. Bleh. A lot of the good ones have already been said above, too.

Smilodon said...

Characters who only exist to be dumb enough to highlight how the hero is brighter than them.
Double points if the character was previously established as really smart. West Wing, I loved it when you brought in a Republican girl, but one episode of showing how she could out-debate an established character was enough, let's watch the two of them work together now please.
Same goes for most supervillians. If the hero can only solve the crime if you make an obvious, out- of-character mistake, then they don't deserve to solve the crime.

depizan said...

Gee, I think everyone's already listed the one's I'd list. Starting with The One. HATE. Have always hated. Also faux-action girls, love interests without personality, and, well, pretty much all of the above.

Will Wildman said...

I generally agree with all of the above listings. I may need some time to think of any further entries not covered.

I want the likable helpful character to not be doomed/evil. I refuse to believe that doomed and secretly evil are the only two possibilities for the likable helpful character.

Azeem (Morgan Freeman) in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is the only one I can think of, and he's got a bucketful of other problematic things on him too.

Harry's dad was a Chaser, not a Seeker

I think they made him a Seeker in the movie because... um, the trope wasn't being played perfectly straight, I guess? Yeah.

The childhood friend (in plenty of the JRPGs I've played) that's always jealous/secretly crushing on the protagonist but he doesn't know it. Naturally they end up together.

The one time I saw this not played straight was actually even more enraging - Shining Force II, an old turn-based strategy for the Genesis, in which the hero starts out in school with a couple of his friends (including a bookish elf gal) and due to Substantial Shenanigans finishes the story as a buff lightsaber-wielding Aragornesque hero with a loyal personal army. Anyway, in the ending, he's sent upstairs to wake up the cursed princess with a kiss (if I recall, we have never actually met this princess before), and his elf friend (who is still a total bookworm but has also grown into a telekinetic amazonian superhero) breaks down and runs out of the room, utterly forgotten. I was basically all why is this scene even here WTF.

Sherry Hintze said...

How about this? Writers, could we please get over the plucky youngster (I was going to say 'plucky little girl', but I think there are some plucky young lads out there as well) who notices Something Wrong. Zie tries to get the surrounding grown-ups to deal with the Something Wrong, but apparently they just can't see it. (Or, in some cases, the youngster is convinced they'll be no help and doesn't even try with them.) So our protagonist squares hir jaw and sets out to Deal With Things. And, of course, saves The World/The Day/Humankind/whatever.

I mean, it's a decent plot, nothing wrong with it, but it's been done to death.

The one that put me over the top was Neil Gaiman's Coraline. I adore just about everything he's ever written, but that book left a sour taste in my mouth as soon as I realized, "Oh, this again..."

chris the cynic said...

and since Dis Guy is somewhat of Edward-with-serial-numbers-filed-off....

If you're talking about 50 Shades isn't he literally Edward with the serial numbers filed off? My understanding is that there's no debate or denial or d-word implying a hint of doubt, 50 Shades started as Twilight fan fiction.

GeniusLemur said...

Then why wasn't it called "50 Shades of Poop?"

redcrow said...

Evil-mentally-ill-possibly-lesbian-roommates who try to ruin nice-sane-straight-girls' lives and take their place.


( I'm going to make my characters watch the (existing in-universe only) movie where (TW: gaslighting, attempting to frame someone else for one's own crimes, bunch of other stuff I don't know how to warn for, but I suppose "gaslighting" covers most of it) avpr-fnar-fgenvtug lbhat jbzna vagragvbanyyl orsevraqf jrveq naq sevraqyrff bar jubz fur xabjf gb or abg rknpgyl fgnoyr, fb fur pna rvgure pbaivapr ure gb xvyy crbcyr jubz fur (gur svefg jbzna) ungrf, be gb senzr ure sbe pevzrf fur urefrys jvyy pbzzvg. Ohg vg qbrfa'g orpbzr pyrne gvyy gur frpbaq cneg bs gur zbivr. Fur snvyf, ol gur jnl. And one character is going to bow out of watching it because she - understandably- thinks she knows how the story goes. Others have to spoil her. I'm still not sure she'll watch it even after being spoiled, though.)

redcrow said...

>>>isn't he *literally* Edward with the serial numbers filed off?

Yes.

Arresi said...

Aside from pretty much everything mentioned above, how about characters who talk about how great diplomacy, law, and/or science are, but who actually solve all their problems by shooting the bad guys? (I've seen both the solo and ensemble cast versions of this, and I'm pretty sick of both of them.)

Couples who, going by canon, are in lust and weirdly possessive/obsessed with each other, but show no signs of actually liking each other as people. (So. Many. Damned. Examples. And it's bad enough that I've started retroactively disliking them.)

JonathanPelikan said...

The One is basically a ''because shut up, that's why' answer directly from the author to anybody who asks 'why is the protagonist worth anything?' or 'why is the protagonist plot-integral/so special, etc'.

JonathanPelikan said...

Complete Off-Topic Moment!

So in a Let's Play I'm watching there was a bit about AD and BC and CE and BCE and stuff. And the dual-commentators took a moment or two to offhandedly dis 'political correctness' and in the comments put out stuff like people who don't like AD or BC or other Christian stuff just need to Toughen Up and get hardier fee-fees.

So I thought about it a while, and left a long, rambling, way out of date response to this discussion using a few things from here like You Often Just Take Privilege for Granted and Why Does This Group Get Privilege and How Would You Like It If... you know, stuff like that. So thanks, Ana; I can definitely say I learned a thing or two from your blogging and thus, once again, I would like to repeat the point that You Have A Net Positive Effect On This World. Living proof right here.

(Grrr. I can't spell 'privilege' to save my life and i have no clue why. One of the reasons having discussions about it is annoying to me. I always end up with privledge or something because that's how I say it. And the spellcheck likes to change it to privileged half the time, so great. Thanks, spellcheck. )

GeniusLemur said...

Exactly. It's lazy and stupid.

Ana Mardoll said...

I heartily endorse all criticizes of Tanis Half-Elven. One of our preferred methods of relaxation in the Mardoll household is to pop in the Dragon Lance cartoon movie DVD and watch Ana shout at Tanis for the entirety of the film.

Ana Mardoll said...

Especially when it's Jeremy Irons. I don't care if he IS upstaging the dull, white bread, farm boy protagonist. The solution to that problem is not to kill the *interesting* one.

Makabit said...

My pet peeve, and at the same time, one of my favorite characters EVAH is the teenage girl who rebels against the gender norms of her society, and manages to become something really hot and important, while feeling ambivalent the whole time because even though she's incredibly talented, touched by magic, does everything better and faster than everyone else, etc., etc., she is just a girl. Oh, and she has, like, one flaw, which means she's not OK, right? But it all ends happily, and she gets the hot guy.

I am ambivalent about this one because she was the person I wanted to be, totally, through age about twenty-three. And yet, it's an overused character, and I have ever so many issues with it, and what it says about the worth of women's roles in society.

Will Wildman said...

The funny thing, to me, is that there are forms in which I think I could enjoy a lot of the character types listed here. Not nearly all of them, of course, but... take The Chosen One, for example. The Chosen One is always treated as a solution - at last, we have The One who is capable of saving us all! I'd like to see them treated as a problem - well, hell's bells, here we have The One who is genetically keyed to be able to wield the Zeitgeistsybel, but he's kind of a useless prat, so do we actually incorporate him into our resistance with an epic PR campaign and try to keep his field roles to a minimum, or do we just lock him permanently in the extra-sub-basement to make sure that no one starts wielding the magic superweapon in this fight?

I also have a percolating story in which one of the main characters is indeed a young man who is last heir to the lost kingdom, but he's been trained in one of two exclusive ways - either he's been trained to get his kingdom back, which means he's been raised to be a warrior and leader and persuader who will be able to cobble together and make use of a force to overthrow the empire, or he's been raised to be a good ruler, which means diplomacy and politics and economics and law, and is absolute rubbish in any combat capacity. Either way, the point is that he can't have both and I want to play with the consequences of that.

The Plucky Youngster who Notices Something Wrong but doesn't get adult help often aggravates me as well, but then there's Tiffany Aching, where part of the point is specifically celebrating people who take responsibility and immediately dig in to get their hands dirty.

I can't think of any good reason for the Faux Action Girl to ever appear again, though.

Makabit said...

Orphan boy (it's always a boy) who grows up to discover he's the long lost heir to the Empire.

Well, there is Mickle (later Queen Augusta), from Lloyd Alexander's Westmark Trilogy. (Which I consider to be his best work.)

God, I love Mickle. She turns out to be a pretty damn good queen, too, despite some serious immaturity early on.

Ana Mardoll said...

Perk girls! Hadn't heard the name before.

We saw a movie two nights ago that had the hero enjoying a Perk Girl whilst mooning over the REAL Love Interest. I was.... amused? startled? Is there a word for cynically-not-shocked-at-all-but-still-a-tiny-bit-surprised? -- that I was apparently expected to still CARE about the romance plot after that.

Hi, movie? This is the viewer speaking. I think your hero is shallow and incapable of constancy, based on what you've shown me thus far. I'm not at all rooting for him to pair-bond with someone, because I see that ending poorly at this point.

Ana Mardoll said...

That's reminding me really muchly of Phantasy Star III. Multi-generational, with love triangles at each junction, and some of the love interests acting as recurring characters due to advanced life spans.

Randy Kay said...

Related, the male sidekick character who exists solely to make the male protagonist look good, and not limited simply to brainpower.

Ana Mardoll said...

Shining Force II! I love that game.

YES. That ending is SO out of left field. You do get to meet the Princess briefly - you can speak to her in the castle if you Explore Everything -- but you meet her ONCE before she's kidnapped into hell-and-then-a-coma for a couple of years. The only indication that the hero is the "true love" needed for the awakening kiss is that when he tried to rescue her during her kidnapping she says -- and I'm quoting from memory -- "wow, he's pretty cool!"

LOL FOREVER. And, yes, why is that scene even here WTF.

(Though it's worth noting that Sarah apparently gets Kazin as a consolation prize. Which to my mind as a child was like being denied vanilla ice cream in order to get a lifetime's supply of sugar cookie ice cream and rainbows. I'll be honest, Bowie or whatever his default name is, was NOT a well-established character in my head.)

/ Sorry. Will stop geeking out about old Sega Genesis games now. I think. :)

The saddest thing about that game was that the Very Interesting deities were not well explored at all, in my opinion.

Asha said...

The typical shonen character in most shonen anime. Goku, Inuyasha, Yuugi, Naruto, all those young teenage boy characters (or at least start out that way) that are good-natured, kinda dumb, kinda perverted, pure of heart and out there to win by pluck alone.

I loathe them. Because other characters in those series who work just as hard and are a lot more interesting usually get ignored because they aren't good enough as people, or aren't wanting to try hard enough. And inevitably, all other more interesting characters fall to the wayside so Marty Stu can go on and win the day. I hate that.

Ana Mardoll said...

LOL. I struggle with it, too. Spellcheck, be smarter! :)

And thank you. :)

Ana Mardoll said...

well, hell's bells, here we have The One who is genetically keyed to be able to wield the Zeitgeistsybel, but he's kind of a useless prat, so do we actually incorporate him into our resistance with an epic PR campaign and try to keep his field roles to a minimum, or do we just lock him permanently in the extra-sub-basement to make sure that no one starts wielding the magic superweapon in this fight?

WANT. With a discussion on the ethics of locking up an innocent versus putting ultimate power (and possibly the peoples' will) in the hands of a prat.

Ana Mardoll said...

Speaking of anime tropes, I would like to see a white-haired person who isn't ancient, evil, or sexeh moody conflicted.

Will Wildman said...

Ahmigad, I have never actually met another real person who even knows what I'm talking about when I say 'Shining Force'.

And yes, looking back on it now, having Kazin (who I imagine now being played by a late-20s Ewan McGregor) run after her doesn't seem like the worst thing ever for Sarah the elf, but I was mostly raging at Bowie (whom I think I renamed Bowen just because it seemed less goofy) for being such a twit. The princess was useless and Sarah was the best everything. This was not subjective.

And yes, for all that his dialogue was translated badly, I kind of loved that the volcano god's reaction to being told all of humanity might be wiped out by monsters was basically "And? Peter, m'boy, humanity is one species. We have a a hojillion others. Get some perspective." Because while it's absurdly evil in an apathetic way, I couldn't remember ever having a god say that in a story before.

(I never played Phantasy Star III, but I am familiar with its curious ways. That was a Thing for a while in JRPGs - I believe the fourth Fire Emblem, with its multiple generations of cast, was around the same time.)

Randomosity said...

I haven't read that. Thanks for the example of a well-written twist on an old trope. Some things can be revived if done well. Jim Butcher has a long-lost heir in his Codex Alera books. He doesn't find out about it until Book 4 or 5 (I forget which). Book 3 was the best of the bunch. He's the only one who can't do magic and he's posing as someone else in the military so he has to pretend he can do what everyone else can do.

depizan said...

It's always come off even worse than that to me. It's not just "because shut up" (which is bad enough) it's "because some people are just better than others. Because the god/magic/the Force (the author, more like) says so." It doesn't just make the protagonist special, it makes everyone else worthless. By definition, only The One can do X (slay the villain, wield the widget, whatever). Which certainly explains why villains want to nuke The One at birth, but has horrible implications both in and out of story.

No, thank you, I want stories in which people succeed because they try, damn it, not because they got handed the plot coupon of Designated One.

Though... I have considered writing a story in which "The One" is a distraction thought up to keep the villain distracted. The seers or mages or whoever does the prophesying take advantage of the villain's understandible paranoia and make up a prophesy about someone with a laundry list of improbable (but not impossible) traits, life experiences, etc. The villain then expends all this energy looking for someone who doesn't exist. Meanwhile, the real plan to overthrow the villain gets underway.

Ana Mardoll said...

Sega Genesis high fivez!!

I love SF2. (SF1, not so much.) Plays well even now, the graphics are cheery and bright and timelessly classic imho. But the dialogue! And I completely agree with Ewan McGregor playing Kazin. Very appropriate. LOL.

You know what else is weird about that scene? Jaha the Dwarf comes forward as a suitor for the princess and is basically laughed out of the room. THAT SCENE. So much WTFs. Though I *did* like the Princess, since I felt sorry for her and she had as many lines as half the army/cast. But it seemed really out of left field to be like "and now we will break the heart of Sarah and that Dwarf guy who have been with you from the beginning". I rather imagine that Chester was only saved by virtue of being a centaur.

True fax: I wrote the makers of that game as a kid and they sent me a printed-off strategy guide in answer. That was back before they sold those for profit, I guess. I still have that around here. Somewhere.

PS3 is HARD. Nintendo Hard. I'm not sure I've finished it, but I read fan fic of the love triangles back in the day. One of the boys in particular -- I don't remember who and can't find a flowchart though you think there would be one -- has to choose between a sexy green haired GIRLY GIRL and a badass warrior princess. It's interesting how vociferous some of the fan ficcers were over these choices. PATRIARCHY, YOU ARE THE REASON WE CAN'T HAVE NICE THINGS. .

Ah, I found them. Thea and Sari: http://shrines.rpgclassics.com/genesis/ps3/characters.shtml

Ana Mardoll said...

Oh! And I forgot to say. I adored the goddess. I know Vulcan steals all the thunder, but I thought the goddess was AWESOME.

A formative experience on my path to Wicca, I'm sure. Video games rock. ;)

Ana Mardoll said...

Oh, I seriously want THAT too.

"Peter, do you have that stolen prophecy I asked for?"

"Yes, m'lud."

"Well, what does it say?"

"It's a rather... LONG list, m'lud."

"*sigh* Well, we'd better get a database guy in here."

"As you wish, m'lud."

Ana Mardoll said...

Something else deeply messed up about PS3 is that whether a girl is Girly or Tomboyish essentially depends on whether her parents had a happy, stable marriage. See Kara. o.O

I get what they were going for, but Unfortunate Implications abound.

Will Wildman said...

I'm afraid it's a long time since I played Shining Force 2, such that only a handful of bits remain in my head - mostly those that earned a WTF reaction. Couldn't get into SF1 at all. But SF2 did prime me to embrace Fire Emblem when it made its way over the ocean - speaking of which, the only non-evil non-ancient non-sexy/moody white-haired character I can think of is Echidna, from Fire Emblem 6, the leader of a resistance movement, who apparently spends much of her free time trying to convince people to help her start a village somewhere where they will try the radical strategy of not having any wars at all.

Michael Mock said...

The young child who possesses incredible powers. I don't care who the parents are, and what their powers are like, for some reason if a pre-teen has powers at all, they're world-shattering levels of Ultimate Power. This is particular common with super heroes (http://www.superstupor.com/sust04092008.shtml), but also shows up in fantasy, or in stories which feature psychic powers.

Nathaniel said...

Phantasy Star 4 was always where I've been at for that series. Appropriate amount of well written plot, loveable characters, and reasonable difficulty.

Will Wildman said...

I have often thought that PS4 would make a great SFF movie, except that it benefits greatly from the context of 1 and 2. And 4 totally needs to be told in two parts. So, who's shopping around for the next four-part cinematic blockbuster? A little sword-and-sorcery, a little sci-fi apocalypse, a little Ancient Advanced Precursors, a little sothothic horror - room to appeal to many.

Silver Adept said...

I'd like to see less characters whose purpose seems to be to have the Idiot Ball at the wrong times, resulting in adventures and hijinx.

Evil characters who do not follow even the basic tenets of the Evil Overlord's List should be sent back to the minors.

Actually, as a general rule, I'd like to see less characters lacking Genre Savvy solely for the point of plot or exposition. At this point, if you're in the middle of the zombie apocalypse, every character there should be up on how to handle Romero-style zombies. Its okay if those tactics don't work, for whatever reason, but nobody should be going "how do we kill these things?" without having tried the standard methods. Same for vampires and malevolent shifters.

chris the cynic said...

I've had several ideas involving "The One" which someone (maybe Will, but I'm not sure) recommended be worked into one story with various stories being told as arguments on why to do something in the main story.

Those insisting, "Don't directly oppose now," quote a story where people should have built a resistance and did what good they could rather than fighting fate because then they'd have saved a lot of people when The One did show up instead of being crushed beforehand.

Someone encouraging the protagonist tells a story where there was a prophecy about The One defeating a warlord causing everyone to just decide, "Not my problem," the protagonist guesses that the warlord made it up but story teller responds with something like "No, that was 50 miles east and 300 years later," and goes on to explain that someone decided to ignore the prophecy and just fight, got no help whatsoever.

In the end, the person ignoring the prophecy saved a group of people one of whom turned out to be "The One" (noticed only after The One killed the warlord to save the prophecy ignoring person) if the prophecy hadn't been ignored The One would have died, no one would have noticed the birthmark, everyone would have kept on waiting, the warlord would have died of old age in the end, and the prophecy wouldn't have come true. Thus the non-prophesied person's efforts were essential to the prophesied person actually completing the prophecy.

Finally, in the main story the protagonist would succeed in spite of the prophecy, which would cause someone to ask the person who made the prophecy (also the one encouraging protagonist to ignore it*) what the hell was up to which prophecy maker would respond that [famous nameless oracle] told her nine out of ten was a good record, where she's only had one miss in hundreds of years so she think's her record is still pretty solid.

-

* Because the prophesy sucked and the future isn't set in stone so if someone stood a chance of overturning it then she was going to try to help that person.

redsixwing said...

Speaking of anime tropes, I would like to see a white-haired person who isn't ancient, evil, or sexeh moody conflicted.

Yes please. (I do like my sexeh moody conflicted white-haired peeps. I suppose you can surrender them and I shall keep them all, moo hoo ha ha. Just maybe not together; they'd fight.)

+1 to the plucky-boy anime everykid. (Yuugi. Naruto. Freakin' every boy recently.) Also to the love triangle hate; I'm starting to loathe them. The one exception is Kashi-Mashi, where my solution (sadly, not the author's) is "will you just all three bang, please."

Faux Action Girls can bite me. Tanis Half-Elven can bite me twice.

A character trope that can fall in a hole as far as I'm concerned is the Schlubby Guy with Good Luck, and his counterpart, the Amazing Trophy Wife from Hell. (For a literal example, Ataru and Lum from Uruseiyatsura. That show is hilarious, but I hate their relationship.) As you might imagine, the entire recent body of romantic comedy can bite me too.

... but not until after it's had a blood test. Ick.

Ymfon said...

The specific subset of The Chosen One where a fantasy protagonist (re)discovers a new type of magic, much more powerful than the kind used by ordinary magicians. (Wheel of Time, I'm looking at you.)

CleverNamePending said...

The Best Friend Nice Guy love interest. That guy. I want him to be thrown off a bridge. I seethe when I read those stories because I've DEALT with that guy*. Fiction makes him a sad hero. He's in love with his best friend but she doesn't see it! He's super sweet and supports her! He's sooo romantic and loyal! And then by the end of the story he naturally gets the girl (or every now and then, simply A girl if not THE girl EX: 500 Days of Summer).

However, all this character does is give Nice Guys positive reinforcement. It feeds into their entitlement of getting naked fun times with The Girl** if they just hang on long enough! It makes them think that if they just offer a shoulder to cry on, tell her how awesome/pretty/funny/smart she is and wait it out, she'll come around and see how you are TOTALLY AWESOME! Because all women love a guy who doesn't respect her boundaries and thinks her "no, I don't feel that way about you" means "try harder". The less these guys are told this behavior is okay and romantic, the better.

*Spoilers - It ended with him confessing his love to me when I was less then a month out of a THREE YEAR LONG RELATIONSHIP which THEN led to him throwing a massive hissy fit when I was all "Dude. Less then a month. Three years. Not dating AT ALL as I am totally unbalanced and crazy right now." I won't even get STARTED on what happened when I started to date my (now) fiancee.
**I'm sure there are Nice Guys in the gay community, too, but I'm speaking from standard fiction/my own experiences.

Aidan Bird said...

I love this thread so much. It has given me so many ideas on tropes to turn on their heads.


Speaking of chosen ones:

In one of my novels, I have a "chosen character" who realizes halfway through her adventure just what is planned for her, rebels against the idea, and effectively ends up destroying a ton of property, fighting against the people she's supposed to be saving, until in order to save themselves, they have to capture her, lock her up, and send a different girl - better trained, even if the new girl isn't the "chosen one," in her place, hoping that no one will be the wiser. The story has a bitter ending planned, though I have yet to write the ending. Writing it has been my rebellion against the annoyance of that trope.

Also, I've been trying to create a science fiction future where diversity is everywhere, is seen as a good thing, and the policies of the government and of society in general is diversity-affirming. Because the whole white people dominating everything in science fiction has annoyed me so much that I'm just throwing that trope out the window, because seriously, diversity is increasing in our world and I seriously think that a future society would be more diverse rather than less.

TW Warning: Genocide discussion

In order for a future world to have less diversity, then there would have to be numerous genocides or something that wiped out whole populations of people with a specific skin color (or orientation or gender identity), but none of the sci fi worlds have this in their history, and thus you end up with a nonsensical white-washed society that just ignores diversity and ruins the world-building a bit. FIrefly - as much as I adore this TV series - is a prime example of this; they have a Chinese/English melded society but there is no significant Asian characters ever. You only see a few in the crowds at a spaceport in maybe one or two episodes. This is nonsensical because the world-building makes it clear that China and America were world-powers that worked together and melded together in the space-faring age. I keep searching the world-building for anything that will explain the lack of Asian characters and there is nothing. It's a giant, gaping blindspot in the world-building. This annoyed the heck out of me. You can't explore the melding of societies by neglecting half of the equation. Oh, Firefly, you had so much potential! (I actually have a post on Asian characters in science fiction on my blog...)

Anyway, there's a few series that seem to show diversity to some extent and that is the Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons - you follow the main characters on a journey, and the first two books follow a somewhat diverse cast of characters. The last two books follows three characters as they go from world to world on a long journey, and you encounter all sorts of diverse societies, people, and so forth. What a rarity for a sci fi book! If only more existed like that.

I suppose that's my biggest frustration. The white-washing of characters, especially in science fiction and fantasy, for they are often the biggest culprits. I'm also highly annoyed by demonification of people who are not straight and not cisgender, because that's a homophobic/transphobic trope that really just needs to die.

JonathanPelikan said...

Well, the protagonist of my novels is going to have very pretty and kind of longish white hair. And he's going to be sexy, but not moody or conflicted. Well, he's got troubles, but he's not, you know, Moody And Conflicted.

(It's the future! Tweaking a thing here or there until your kid starts to resemble an anime prettyboy in a bit of the geisha mold is small potatoes. As long as you don't start any Supersoldier Wars or Creation Slavery, in fact keep the Transhumanism to a minimum... fire away with the genetics. And if the person ends up not a fan of whatever happened, well, there's a range of options available to them with cybernetics, bioscience, etc.)

(TANGENT ALERT: Matter of fact, I'm going to detail a movement within this society that specifically does not undergo changes in search of Beauty and stuff. It's not that they want to be Ugly, (try getting a consensus opinion on physical attractiveness from a Republic of 30-plus sapient species and artificials) they just sort of decide to look a bit how normal people used to look for philosophical reasons.)

(FURTHER TENGENT: Also yes, because the Republic is an Awesome Society in my books, it's against federal laws to do a specific list of alterations to the kid without getting permission, and there's no way to get consent before they're developed and born and stuff. So no 'We've Finally Found Ze Cure For Gays And Ozer Undezirables!' times. Although local regulations vary by world and nation about other stuff about that.)

TLDR: I've always loved white hair. Like, snow-white. Thought it looked pretty.

Anthony Rosa said...

Actually, I was planning on writing a novel utilizing a prophecy of a "chosen one"... as propaganda that has no basis in reality, and is utilized by a rebellion to create a cult of personality around its leader.

...they don't win, but there's more to the story than that.

GeniusLemur said...

The way to "beat" tropes isn't to turn them on their heads. It's to ignore the heck out of them. Again, no prophecy, no chosen one. Period. Just someone who wants to make a difference.

Aidan Bird said...

Oh, I love Fire Emblem so much. Micaiah from Fire Emblem: A Radiant Dawn has silver hair. Does that count for white? The pictures at the bottom really vary from a bluish shade of silver to a very white shade of silver: http://fireemblem.wikia.com/wiki/Micaiah

I loved Sega games as a kid - as much as I loved Nintendo.


This is more of an appearance of characters, but I am sick to death of this stupid, stupid idiotic idea that girls cannot wear armor and that if they do wear armor it most show as much skin as possible. WTF, seriously, that would not protect them at all in fights. They're bound to die faster for there's so much skin of which an attacker can focus upon and cause major damage. If they're going to wear armor then wear armor - real armor like the guys wear. It just annoys me so much and ruins the immersive quality of the story.

Thousand said...

Well, people have already listed most of my loathed characters. I hate pretty much all Mary Sues, of any gender - they're probably my most loathed character archetype. I also really, really hate characters who hold the Idiot Ball much, which happens way more than it should in fiction written for adults. I'm agreeing with earlier comments about hating Anime shonen heroes for the most part.

Honestly, on more of a meta level, I think that any character who is simple enough and poorly realized enough that I can summarize them in a single (not excessively long) sentence is something I'm pretty much done with. I like characters who have depth: who act differently in different situations, who respond differently to different people, who have a genuine palette of emotions rather than a single mood. Bonus points if they have a number of personal goals and objectives and multiple desires and wants.

Anime series are often particularly bad about this - if a major character who has been a focal point of the story can be adequately describe as "shonen protagonist #5,271,009" or "tsundere" or "whatever" and tell you everything you need to know about that character then the writer has failed, badly. That said, a lot of the more mediocre fiction I've seen of any medium falls prey to this "have a single idea about then fail to characterize them any further" - you see it in a ton of the (enormously overlarge) cast of characters of Wheel of Time, for example.

I think the incredibly common situation where all characters that are not viewpoint characters only have a single attribute that defines them as a person wholly and utterly, is very related to the Fundamental Attribution Error - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamental_attribution_error for more details about that. Basically, people perceive situation and circumstance as causing their own actions, while perceive others as acting solely from their inner dispositions or personalities. Therefore, in fiction there is at most one or two characters who are allowed to be a little bit complex and have situational responses and so forth, while others act solely due to (an unvarying) inner personality.

Isabel C. said...

I like characters who have depth: who act differently in different situations, who respond differently to different people, who have a genuine palette of emotions rather than a single mood. Bonus points if they have a number of personal goals and objectives and multiple desires and wants.

Yes. And that's difficult to pull off a lot of the time.

I was talking with a friend about that the other day, actually--in the context of RP, but still--and also weird metaphysics, and brought up that nobody I know is the same person all the time.

You change with time, which is common, but most people also context shift. I act differently with my friends than I do with my grandparents, or at work; I also act differently with my friend Joe than I do my friend Bob. Is any of these the "real Izzy"? If so, which one? Sometimes--grandparents, work--I'm conscious of putting on something of a facade, but most of the time it's just a shift in stance.

And it's damn hard to portray that even with RPG characters--partially because there's a risk of "well, she's just playing herself" if you do--and certainly with non-POV characters in books.

But yeah, I'm with you. I wish I had the skills to do more of that.

Eruza said...

Wow, really? That's actually incredibly disturbing.

Aidan Bird said...

I don't know if I agree with that. There are some tropes that should never be used again ever, yes. But there is some that can be turned on their heads to great affect and you can still get a great story out of them.

Trying to ignore all the tropes would be near impossible since nearly everything that has been written has some sort of trope in it - there really isn't such a thing as an "original idea that has never been done before." I'm sure if we sat down and analyzed various stories - especially the ones claiming to have original ideas that hasn't been used before - we would find a great many tropes unconsciously utilized. Why not, instead, carefully examine your writing for the tropes that might have fallen into place unconsciously, and then set out to make sure the tropes are subverted? For even if you do get rid of the tropes you notice, what's to say you're not utilizing a different one in their replacement? Thus a never ending cycle.

So yes, I agree that one should avoid the most damaging tropes - the ones that take populations of people and causing harm to them (I'm looking at all those demonization of non-white people, non-straight people, and not cisgender people) .

However, I don't really see "a chosen one" as a damaging trope unless it's played the way it's played in half of the fantasy literature out there - if you take that trope and show that the "chosen one" is say a conspiracy to control the populace or distract enemy forces, then I would call that a perfectly fine subversion that could prove incredibly interesting to read - depending on how well the author executes it. It depends on the execution really.

The "prophecy" side of the trope is something I take issue with but this also deals with arguments of fate. Whether a set fate exists, whether our lives are predestined from the start, or whether we really do have free will and life has an infinity mess of probabilities for how things turn out. I'm more toward the chaotic theory of free will and a mess of infinite probabilities for situations, and how even the tiniest action can still have a consequence later. I've seen this used to amazing effect in Tamora Pierces books where prophecy is a mess - you have to examine fragments from the future, and those fragments change quickly and easily depending on the actions of those in the present, so most of the time prophecy doesn't give much information on future events - unless an action happens in the present that ripples outward and dozens of fragments keep showing a recurring theme. The mage then has to reconstruct what that theme is by digging into more fragments that may change as the mage is viewing them. This mess of future-telling is absolutely wonderful, for large events that effect huge populations of people would be the consistent situation such future-telling could determine. (There isn't any "chosen one" stuff in her books either from what I remember.) So whose to say prophecies aren't like that? A mess where the prophet has to sort through to find anything that is huge enough to appear in more than a few fragments? I'd be fine with a story like that, because it's a bit more realistic to me, and far more interesting - it also allows for false interpretations in case the prophet messes up interpreting the fragments.

So there are ways to utilize what seems like an over-used trope and turn it into a fascinating venture. So no, I don't agree with avoiding them entirely - the only ones worthy of that are the ones that actively harm a group of people. I don't think prophecy tropes or "chosen one" tropes actively do that every time they're utilized.

Ana Mardoll said...

Yes, I really like tropes turned on their head. And ignored is nice too; there's enough books out there that we can do both. :)

Ana Mardoll said...

Speaking of prophecy tropes, I've always been intrigued by the Greek notion that we fulfill our prophecy in trying to avoid it. So you have, for example, Oedipus who -- upon being told he'll kill his father -- he leaves town immediately and misses the news that he's adopted.

What if Oedipus had thought, "Welp, can't fight fate. Guess I'll go home and hope that means I introduce Dad to a new girl when he's 101 and he has a heart-attack on the honeymoon. Best case scenario, that."

Ana Mardoll said...

Also, this. It's one reason why I hate personality tests, because GODDAMMIT WHETHER I AM AN INTROVERT OR AN EXTROVERT DEPENDS ON THE SITUATION. AND THE WEATHER. AND THE TIME OF DAY. AND EVERYTHING. AND JASPER.

But it's hard to write characters that way. I've been told that my characters are "inconsistent" sometimes when I really was just trying to portray them as complex. Writing is HARD.

Will Wildman said...

As I understood the definition (which is not the commonly used one, but makes far more sense to me), 'introvert' and 'extrovert' aren't anything like 'shy' versus 'outgoing' - it was introduced to me as meaning that extroverts gained energy from being around other people and slowed down when alone, and introverts gained energy while alone and became steadily more exhausted while in groups, no matter how much they might enjoy socialising.

That seems like a thing that could be much more consistent for a person while still allowing them a wide range of actual behaviors. I am often shy, but I can also be exuberant in the right social group, but either way, eventually no matter how much I'm enjoying it I need everyone to go away and give me space.

Ana Mardoll said...

I like that. By that definition, I am an introvert, but I would have said that anyway.

But every personality test in the world has something like "I enjoy talking to strangers" or "People like talking to me" or "I'm approachable in conversation". Well, um, yeah, I strike up a conversation while waiting at the grocery store checkout, but that doesn't make me an extrovert (in my mind).

Another thing I hate about personality tests is that they're not weighted for disabilities. "I like being active" or "I like playing sports" doesn't say shit about your personality when you're disabled. ARGLE WARGLE FLETCH.

// Pet Peeve.

I like your definition, though. :)

Will Wildman said...

(Note: near-death by asphyxiation.)

A conversation with a Hellenic Reconstructionist on the subject of Fate led to my imagining of the Department of Prophecy Control.

Upon receiving an E-10M code from one of their field agents, they deploy an emergency team including an officiant and the best available paramedics. The team will gather the person who was targeted by the prophecy, along with their mother and their father. Under controlled conditions, the dude smothers his father until legally 'dead', and then the paramedics immediately set about resuscitating him while the officiant quickly marries the guy to his mother and then divorces them on the spot.

Ain't nothing you can do about fate, but if you need a prophecy defused as safely as possible, you call the DPC.

Ana Mardoll said...

That. Is. Awesome.

I wonder if one could get around "die on daughter's wedding day" by holding the ceremony at midnight, and making it a handfasting just to be sure.

Ana Mardoll said...

Also, I can no longer hold this back.

Will, who is that ordering an Evil Pizza in your avatar?? Is it Carpathia?

Will Wildman said...

Ha, no, it's the Master (John Simm iteration) from Doctor Who, an evil overlord of sufficient calibre to roll over Nicolae Carpathia without particularly noticing. The Master knows how to have fun being a complete monster.

Ana Mardoll said...

Ah! That explains it; I'm not Who-versed. Thank you. It's an avatar that has provided me with many happy hours wondering what toppings an evil pizza would have.

My favorite "still plus caption" avatar will always be Sean Bean / Boromir explaining that one does not simply walk into....... Walmart.

LOL LOL LOL.

Aidan Bird said...

That is the funniest thing I've heard all day. The Boromir one. Oh heavens, I bet it's even more hilarious to see it.

Ana Mardoll said...

I couldn't find the avatar, but apparently it has its own meme page!

knowyourmeme.com/memes/one-does-not-simply-walk-into-mordor

depizan said...

I suppose that's my biggest frustration. The white-washing of characters, especially in science fiction and fantasy, for they are often the biggest culprits.

Yeeeesss. And, while this could be my very narrow selection speaking (I am a very picky reader/watcher and consume fiction for positive entertainment), but it seems like sci-fi, at least on the adventure end of things, is the absolute worst for this. It's a peeve I have with nearly* every sci-fi adventure/space adventure thing I like. Star Trek is a little better, but it still feels skewed badly to white doods in space. (Or maybe that's because I like the more white doody series best for completely unrelated reasons. DS9 and Voyager were more diverse but depressing as HELL And/or boring, not very well written, etc.)

It makes me want to write space adventure with no white doods.


*I can't think of a single one it doesn't apply to. :( ... Wait, everybody in Irresponsible Captain Tylor is Japanese, right? I cannot for the life of me remember where the show starts, but I think it's in Japan. And most of the characters have Japanese names. Yay!

fizzchick said...

So I just skimmed the thread, but I don't think I saw this one yet. It's most prominent in TV shows/Hollywood, but appears elsewhere as well. I'm sick of the "two coworkers of opposite gender must have sexual tension and eventually get together" trope, especially when combined with the "two coworkers of the same gender have fun and hijinks with no sexual tension" one. Why can't people just be good friends? See NCIS' Tony and Ziva, which only follows up on the Tony and Kate one, Leverage all over the place, Castle (which I otherwise love, but OMFSM do I loathe the relationship angst), House, Bones, Body of Proof (though at least they made it a couple of the male leads with female secondary characters), the whole raison d'etre of the Dr. Who reboot, and though I'm not as familiar with them, it seems to be prominent in White Collar, CSI, and several other primetime drama-type shows.

I think it shows up as a result of other unfortunate tendencies: One, any story with drama/action will have one (or at most two) main female characters. Two, with a whole ensemble of men around, and the need for dramatic tension, the easy way to do it is make it be sexual tension, preferably with a male lead so that the viewers will care more (and because all these people's lives must revolve around their workplace). And of course it will be hetero, because patriarchy. Bingo, your only/main female character must be in a relationship with, or wishing she were in a relationship with, or dealing with the fallout from a relationship with, a main male character.

I think part of the reason that I get so miffed is that I am, myself, living proof that this does not have to happen. I'm a hetero woman in a male-dominated field, and yet I've had a flirtatious relationship with exactly one of the dozens of male coworkers I've interacted with over 10+ years in the field. With everyone else? Yeah, we razz each other, go out for drinks occasionally, but there's no sexual tension there, just good collegial relationships. I want something more like the old Avengers, where despite all the sexist fail, Mrs. Peel and John Steed were good coworkers who had each other's backs.

Silver Adept said...

For a subversion of the idea of prophecy, although chock full of write dudes doing white dude things, best I can tell, Asimov's Foundation series basically involves someone predicting the disaster to come with maths, and basically saying the best the Empire can do is make the period of barbarism and lost knowledge last only for a thousand years.

But only if the participants in the prophecy are ignorant of the maths and the scenarios they produce and willingly let situations run themselves to the point where there is only one way out, setting off the next chain of events. (At least, that's the initial condition. Over time, there are things that can monkey with the plan and there develops a cabal dedicated to using their powers and science to ensure the Plan as written goes forward, since they have access to the maths and the Plan.)

Anyway, that's another way of looking at prophesied Chosen Ones - the prophecy exists, but is so complex that if anyone actually knew all of it, they have the potential to screw everything up, and so instead, everyone has to work together and do their job, just in case they're the important part of the machine without which the whole plan falls apart.

Naomi said...

I like the idea of the Department of Prophecy Control, and have actually read a (somewhat obscure) story that was written kind of along these lines. It's called "The Grand Cheat," and involves a lawyer figuring out an extremely clever way around a curse. I don't think you can read it online, but you can listen to it: http://podcastle.org/2008/07/01/pc014-the-grand-cheat/

Sherry Hintze said...

> I love this thread so much. It has given me so many ideas on tropes to turn on their heads.

Oh, I love to turn things on their heads. Tropes, story prompts, anything. "Write a story with blah, blah, and blah - but the end has to make sense. You can't just have all the characters killed off by a bus at the end." And I start to think to myself, "Well, sure, I see what you're trying to avoid there. But what if there was a very good *reason* for the characters to be there in front of that out-of-control bus? Or what if the antagonist has a thing about using out-of-control buses to do hir dirty work? Or the characters solve the problem and save the day and they're all standing around high-fiving and back-slapping, and *then* the bus?"

"What if I can make it make sense?" is such a fun toy to mess around with.

Patrick Knipe said...

Yay, you played Shining Force II!

Ahem.

Reading all the talk on Chosen Ones has given me an idea.

So there's a big evil villain dude, and there's a prophecy that says that the Chosen One has to get the Sword de l'Macguffin to defeat him in epic one-on-one combat. The sword is stuck in a stone, held in a monastery, -something- like that. The Chosen One stumbles across it, gets it, and behold! The Chosen One!

He meets the villain in combat and is immediately killed. The villain says "Who do you think made that prophecy, exactly?" and then goes on to steamroll everyone who waited around for the savior Chosen One instead of actually making proper plans.

Loquat said...

On the topic of Boromir, I'll share my favorite Lord of the Rings joke ever.

If you're unfamiliar with the 1978 animated Lord of the Rings movie, just know this - for some reason, they decided to have most/all of the human men run around in little fur mini-kilts, showing off their thighs.

The logical result: Gondor has no pants. Gondor needs no pants.

JonathanPelikan said...

Reminds me a bit of Mass Effect 3. (No, not the ending! This time.)

Specifically, and this is going into ME3 SPOILERS territory,
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but the gods-damned Crucible. You know, the thing that the entire plot centers around. The "Reaper off switch". This machine whose plans and schematics have passed through each cycle and survived the Reapers, with each race making additions. It's just this Thing. And it's just there. It's just There. And we just have to Build It because the Reapers are immortal and super best and like we can't just shoot them while they're firing their lasers because that is completely impossible and-

Specifically, it's clearly enumerated that no organic being has ever known what the Crucible does. As in, Does. We all kind of hope it'll stop the Reapers or something, but the story is very clear that its function is never Known until it's fired.... and it's never been successfully deployed against the Reapers in the countless extinction cycles.

Okay, so this Thing has passed down to each generation, surviving the infinitely patient and meticulous Reaper purges that remove nearly all other evidence for each and every cycle. Each culture just puts all their resources into building this Thing and trying to use it. It's never been used successfully. Then when the Reapers attack we dig up the plans for it on Mars, and, welp, it's our tun to place our faith and the entire plot of the third game on this thing we just found that's just a Thing that Does Stuff. Several characters explicitly state that it could just indiscriminately obliterate the entire galaxy or something. We don't know.

Uh... am I the only one who smells a trap? What if the Reapers are missing these plans on purpose, so that each cycle would waste the lion's share of resoueces and efforts on this forlorn hope? People after people have put all of their faith not in their own arms and courage and tactics but in this Thing, and if it is a Reaper plot, it's the most successful trap in galactic history. It's a gigantic nihlistic joke about just how stupid organic thinking is and how we just latch onto things to give us hope, even if we end up with no resources to, you know, fight the threat. And if a cycle does finish the Crucible and deploy it... maybe it destroys the organics, or just makes a pretty lightshow and fails to defeat the Reapers. Thus, delivering a single crushing blow to organic morale and now they don't have any hope or any resources. Easy pickings. Num num.

Nobody in the story even gives a moment's thought to this possibility, as far as I'm aware. Including the Reapers, luckily for us. When I thought of this I pretty much figured that was the only way to redeem their decision to focus the third act of the trilogy on this Deus Ex Thing. (They went another direction. As in, the Ending.)

depizan said...

Several characters explicitly state that it could just indiscriminately obliterate the entire galaxy or something.

Oh, well, clearly that's a good idea. Quick, finish it so we can flip the switch!

This ranks up there with the Deathly Hallows on the "and you want that again, why?" scale. Surely, it would be a better plan to figure out how to actually defeat the Reapers or even hurt them. Something that would turn them away. (Or whatever. I haven't played the games, which makes talking about them a little awkward.) I mean, if it hasn't worked in so many cycles, why would you think it would work now? And how do you build a device that you don't know what it does!?

Dear game designers, why in blazes did you think a serious version of the Omega 13 was a good idea?

DavidCheatham said...

Harry's expected to be Gryffindor because all Potters are Gryffs, he's expected to fight for the Light because Potters are always champions of the Light, likes redheads because all Potters like redheads, etc.

Harry's not expected to fight Voldemort because his family did. I'm not sure if you mean the narrative expects us to think it works like this, or people in the story think it works like this, but neither works. The reason Harry fights in the narrative is exactly one reason: To save other people's lives.

As for the public in books six and seven, they don't know anything about his parents. The Order of the Phoenix is secret, after all. Those who do know about his parents generally aren't 'expecting' him to fight at all, they're all rather he not fight, as he's mostly underaged.

And the last thing about redhead is a fandom conceit. The fact that Harry's mother was a redhead and he ended up with one does not mean that there's a history of this with the Potter family, or even that Harry or James 'like redheads'. Harry was physically attracted just fine to Cho.

To get on topic about characters I would like to get rid of, how about cartoon villains? Villains who are evil in ways that make no progress towards their end goals.

Harry Potter example: Pssst. Draco. Harry Potter is _revered_. Accidentally insulting his new friend on the train ride to Hogwarts is recoverable, or at best forgettable. Deciding instead to deliberately make enemies the savior of wizarddom by threatening to have him killed in the way his parents were killed is not only not 'cunning', but your family was supposedly 'coerced' into Voldemort's service, so to imply otherwise is the most uncunning thing you can possibly do.

That I could forgive (He's only 11) but he keeps that sort of thing up...and until book five, as far he knew, Voldemort was dead, so all he's doing is reminding everyone of the war _his family was on the wrong side of and barely escaped punishment via massive bribes_.

It's one thing to be openly racist in a society where that's accepted. That I can see. It's another to be openly pro-dead-terrorist-your-family-barely-wasn't-found-guilty-of-supporting and anti-guy-who-saved-everyone-from-him.

Mary Kaye said...

My husband and I have a particular hate for the guy we call "The NPC Who Knows But Won't Tell". Obviously we met him in RPGs, but he can show up anywhere. He knows something that would help the protagonist, he's supposed to be a good guy and an ally, but for some reason...he won't tell. Because "you have to find out for yourself" I guess, or "because you're not ready", or....gosh, I hate this guy. He may be one of the reasons my D&D characters tend to have "Detect Thoughts" in their spell lists. "Oh, so you know but you won't tell, hm? Make a DC21 save." (evil grin)

Closely related to him is the "NPC Who Dies Before He Can Tell You." Argh. I don't like this in fiction, but it *really* cannot be used in D&D games where the mechanics don't allow you to die like that, of your wounds, while still conscious. Or where the PCs have access to Raise Dead--but if they use it of course the plot implodes. Or just Speak With Dead!

My husband just bought me a module where they apparently realized the guy couldn't die, so he reverts to type #1 by saying "I'm injured and tired, and for unexplained arbitrary reasons you can't heal me or perk me up with Lesser Restoration, so I won't tell you any more. Go out and do the scenario." That would go over like a lead balloon with my group. (Except for Lily, who would smile sweetly and go for the Detect Thoughts again. That spell is such a great scenario-breaker.)

Asha said...

I've had an idea for a character who is the stand-in for fallen Chosen Ones. She's sort of a puppet, a vessel for the spirit of the person who was meant to fulfill a specific role. Which has her swapping genders, and her body remolding into various forms as the prophecy demands. After that part is played out, the spirit leaves- until there is a moment where she does the job, and some other spirit (someone she failed to save) just doesn't want to die and she feels all guilty and agrees for them to work together to watch over the new Chosen One because Reasons. But the idea is that someone still has to do the job and there is someone in charge of getting the job done.

BaseDeltaZero said...

Oh, I love Fire Emblem so much. Micaiah from Fire Emblem: A Radiant Dawn has silver hair. Does that count for white? The pictures at the bottom really vary from a bluish shade of silver to a very white shade of silver: http://fireemblem.wikia.com/wi...


She's also several hundred years old, so she doesn't qualify.


*I can't think of a single one it doesn't apply to. :( ... Wait, everybody in Irresponsible Captain Tylor is Japanese, right? I cannot for the life of me remember where the show starts, but I think it's in Japan. And most of the characters have Japanese names. Yay!

That's pretty much the same concept in a different context, though... very, very few Anime will have black characters, for instance... and when they do, it has a tendency to make minstrel shows seem like they're really not that racist after all.

depizan said...

Closely related to him is the "NPC Who Dies Before He Can Tell You." Argh.

When books published in 1929 make fun of this trope, it just miiiight be long past time to retire it, except in comedy.

Wait, people try to use it in D&D modules? Bzuh? O_o That... but... all the reasons you list there... how do module writers not realize... wurble...

depizan said...

I really don't know how to categorize where Anime/Manga fits in the diversity scheme. The fact that it's become wildly popular in the US means that people are reading/watching things that have Japanese protagonists (Yay!) except, well, of course they do*. And then if one throws in the fact that most Americans don't even read Anime characters as anything but white... *sigh*


*Except when, on rare occasion, they don't. Fullmetal Alchemist, for example, seems to have fantasy European characters. And a smidge of actual diversity, with Ishbal and Xing.

Makabit said...

It's one thing to be openly racist in a society where that's accepted. That I can see. It's another to be openly pro-dead-terrorist-your-family-barely-wasn't-found-guilty-of-supporting and anti-guy-who-saved-everyone-from-him.

The Malfoys are not perfectly drawn, and they sort of clunk through the Potter books. It's a pity, because Draco could have been a much better character. I thought that the fifth book did quite a lot to 'place' the upper-crust Death Eaters, culturally, but it didn't quite play out in the rest of the series.

Lucius worked better in the movies because Jason Isaacs played him, and Jason Isaacs does chilling, civilized evil better than anyone. But they're never quite as careful as you think they should be, and the ending was...odd. Off.

Naomi said...

I once had a dream in which I was in an X-Files episode, and I was the Person Who Dies Before Mulder and Scully Get There. (In essence, The NPC Who Dies Before He Can Tell You.) I was being stalked by a monster of the week, and I did all sorts of things to try to protect myself (including hiding, locking doors, arming myself, and fleeing, IIRC) but all with this heavy sense of futility because I KNEW, from the beginning of the dream, that I was the Person Who Dies Before Mulder and Scully Get There. I swear I could even see them coming up the driveway, as the monster ate me.

(Presumably as compensation for this, I later had a dream in which I was Scully and thus Could Not Die.)

BaseDeltaZero said...

Most Americans don't even read Anime characters as anything but white... *sigh*


That probably has a lot to do with the fact anime characters tend to be pretty darn generic - and its meant (I assume) to be a blank template onto which an array of features can be imposed. With huge eyes, no nose... even Not all anime (some is really realistic), obviously, but a lot. On top of that, a lot of anime has a tendency to have only one model - same face, same body structure, same skin tone...

So for me, barring outside information (i.e. 'it's set in Japan'), the race of an anime character can generally much be summarized as 'not black'. But then, I've pretty much never been able to determine races by sight.

Jules said...

Anybody who is The One, particularly where other characters point out, recognise and/or support this (implied, without question).

it doesn't work that way are you eight years old seriously and no he/she is not christlike argh!

Rikalous said...

Heroes who overtake all their allies in terms of power, to the extent that said allies are useless in all major fights tend to grate on me, but I can accept that not everything has to be an ensemble show. When it happens in a work that's supposed to be emphasizing The Power of Friendship? Then it's really annoying.

There's also heroes who are powerful because of inborn ability, especially if it's inherited. Getting things done with hard work and creativity (granted, intelligence isn't something that you can change about yourself, but at least thinking creatively takes some effort) is so much cooler. Which I suppose ties into the whole Chosen One thing.

@Ana: Allen Walker is the white-haired hero of D.Gray-Man, and remarkably non-moody considering the backstory traumas that seem to be a requirement to gain the verse's evil-hunting powers. Possibly ancient, although it's not even hinted at for two hundred chapters.

@Will: There are not enough likes in the world to express my love of the Department of Prophecy Control.

Jules said...

Ok, so I posted before reading - no one likes the One! :) But I would throw Supporting Charcters Who Blindly and Blithely Accept The One's Oneness on the pyre as well.

Can I also toss in Single (Lovelorn) Fat Friend? Who couldn't possibly find love (seeing as how practically perfect with token "flaw" protagonist has not yet found love)? Because ... No.

EdinburghEye said...

I don't think the point of this list is "Characters that should be avoided entirely".

It's characters that we never want to see again.

Obviously there are going to be differences of opinion.

Aidan, you may enjoy reading stories such as you describe, about Chosen Ones and Prophecies. That's fair enough!

I frankly don't. I don't at this point know any way to write a Chosen One story so that it has any appearance of freshness. Though in my view this is how movie blockbusters work - pick a stale tired old trope, dream up an interesting mileu, throw in a few dazzling special effects, and stir in at least one star.

But reading a novel I want to be able to drop into the story without bumping my head on "Oh dear sweet Neo, it's another bloody Chosen One and WOW there's a PROPHECY. Yay."

A good enough writer could make that work without bumping my head! Good writers can. But there are some character tropes which I think almost defy good writing because they are so old and stale and tired and bloody predictable, and yeah, I think one of them is Chosen One/Prophecy Kid..


Prophecies can be kinda fun, in a "looking ahead in the book" kind of way - a sort of detective-story spoiler at the start, can you be Hercule Poirot enough to figure out just what is going on from the intentionally obscure Prophecy? But for that to really work the author has to be genuinely clever at doing that, or good at writing thrillers where it doesn't matter you know how it happened while the police procedure is following. But chosen ones, no.

Rakka said...

The minor villain character who exist for the sole purpose of giving the main character a way out of trouble. I'm looking at you, several Modesy Blaise books. (Which, granted, also have cringeworthy presentation of non-heterosexual characters and annoying tendency to call 20-something women "girls" but hey, poly/ open relationships AND lead female and male characters who are not sexually attracted to each other.)

Chosen Ones and secret heirs and so on. Way to promote the "you must have special pedigree to be awesome" crap.

evilsatu said...

I really don't ever again want to see strong female characters who don't get along with other strong female characters. Work together, damn it! Show the dudes how it's done. Surely there is room for more than one of you.

GeniusLemur said...

But at this late date, most of the "tricks" to get around the dreary predictability of a chosen one plot are drearily predictable cliches themselves.

I'd also point out that if you do the fake prophecy thing, one of two things will happen:
1. The prophecy gets fullfilled anyway, so it doesn't matter that it was fake.
2. The prophecy fails, the bad guy wins. But a reader who'd appreciate this isn't going to read that far, because they'll be turned off by yet another chosen one plot. A reader who likes this kind of plot and will read that far is exactly the kind of reader who will hate this plot twist.

I mean, let's face it. Is an author really going make a big deal out of the chosen one, build it all up for chapter after chapter, and then have the hero die in the first volley of arrows, leaving the other characters to look at each other and say, "Well, guess he wasn't the chosen one after all?"

Mary Kaye said...

SPOILERS for all three Elder Scrolls games:











In Oblivion there is a Chosen One, and it's not the player's character, it's someone else. Abstractly this sounds like a good idea to me, but I found the game emotionally flat. The Chosen One gets to make the key decisions, you don't. You're just the super-powerful guy who has to stage-manage so that his decisions can be implemented. Again, that doesn't sound so bad in the abstract--kind of subversive and playing against type--but as a game it didn't work for me at all. (Didn't help that a lot of what you had to do was repetitious. My poor husband developed a characterization for his character that involved "if I see an Oblivion Gate I have to close it." Boy, was he sorry.)

They didn't repeat the experiment in Skyrim; in fact they went the other way and kind of drool at the feet of the PC Chosen One. I didn't like that either. I'd say I'm hard to please, but damn, Morrowwind pleased me *immensely*. It does two good things with this trope: first, the Chosen One has to genuinely suffer--not just fight, but also become dreadfully ill and a thing of pity and fear to all who see her--en route to her victory, and second, you eventually find out that you're about the tenth Chosen One and the others all *failed*. And it's not, I feel the game strongly implies, that you were the real thing and they were not. You're all the real thing, but it's no guarantee you won't fail. I liked that a lot.

Michael Mock said...

Love Morrowind. Love it love it. For all the reasons you just mentioned, and a couple more as well.

Randomosity said...

Sing it, evilsatu!

Aren't women supposedly more cooperating than men, if you buy into the gender essentialism crap? Unless, of course, these characters are competitive over a man. GAAAAAAAH!

It's a wonderful way to avoid passing the Bechdel Test while providing a more than token number of women. If they don't meet and work together, you don't notice they're essentially the same character with a different hair color. (two women: one has blond hair, the other dark hair, three women: add a redhead, four or more: add a token non-caucasian - apparently all women look alike, only to be distinguished by hair color. Never mind all the military stories featuring men in uniforms and with the same buzzcut. No one has trouble telling them apart.)

And I'd like to add the female leader of an all male group. If a woman is that visible in your organization, why is she the only one? Where are the female trainees, the female middle-ranked practitioners? In the real world, girls see this fabulous role model and want to follow in her footsteps. Where are they? If Eowyn got to learn to fight with a sword, why aren't other girls learning the sword, too?

I've been running D&D campaigns for three decades and have played in games at cons and I hate it when the only female character in a pre-generated party has the following character hook: She's female. How in the name of (fill in the blank) do you roleplay that? The male characters all have interesting things like, he stutters, he's afraid of undead (we're going into a crypt), he's only pretending to be noble, he's trying to fence the crown jewels and his contact is in the crypt, he's secretly a werewolf and the full moon is tomorrow night. The seven men, one token woman parties are ridiculously common. I made a pledge that if I ever played another Blanderella, I'd give her a real character hook: a strong sense of justice and the inability to keep her mouth shut.

Nathaniel said...

I draw my sword in defense of Ds9's honor. It was the best written series in the canon, and to mention it in the same breath as that equally squandered and irritating Voyager is nigh blasphemy.

depizan said...

I draw my sword in defense of Ds9's honor.

I fear I didn't make it through the first season. You know, the one where everything was Cardasians. EVERYTHING. I understand it got extremely good (if extremely dark) in later seasons. Unfortuntately, I don't do dark, so I've never gone back to check out the good seasons.

depizan said...

1. The prophecy gets fullfilled anyway, so it doesn't matter that it was fake.

Wouldn't that entirely depend on one's definition of the prophecy? I mean, if the prophecy says that The Dark Lord Vghezzzugh will be defeated by a six foot tall, blond, blue eyed, half-elven, swordsman born of a nun and a dragon and raised by the Hermits in the Catacombs of Light on the twelfth moon of the seventh year after a total solar eclipse. And instead, Vghezzzugh is defeated by an army lead by the Queen of Telana and specifically slain by a five foot tall, brown haired, brown eyed human woman born of two very sucessful tavern owners and weilding a mace. Oh, and it was only the fourth moon of the year. Did the prophecy get fullfilled?

chris the cynic said...

Also if the Chosen One is killed by a stray arrow and a brutal infection halfway through the book and the characters left alive have to figure out what to do eventually defeating the evil overlord without the dear departed Chosen One, the prophecy isn't fulfilled and good triumphs in the end.

-

To a certain extent all correct prophecies are either irrelevant or self fulfilling. Since they're correct they have to come true. If the prophecy would have come true anyway, then the prophecy itself didn't make much of a difference. If it wouldn't have come true had the prophecy not been made, then it's self fulfilling.

Given that the interesting things in a story involving a prophecy that is correct will always be at the margins. Yes the child with the purple birthmark behind zir right ear will go on to defeat the evil overlord, but that says nothing about how many members of the innocent kingdoms of filgidyboop will live to see that day.

-

In Greek myth, by the way, there's sort of a tension between whether it's irrelevant or self fulfilling. Oedipus was going to kill his father and marry his mother no matter what, which makes the actual prophesy being delivered irrelevant in the sense that if it weren't delivered it still would have worked out that way somehow.

But the way that it did work out was for the gods to scare Oedipus into running away at the same time they scared his father into running toward, causing the arrogant jerks to meet on the road and before you know it we're halfway through Antigone and Creon is screwing up the next generation above and beyond how it managed to screw up itself.

DavidCheatham said...

I tend to think there are two distinct type of 'Chosen Ones', one of which I'm bored with and one I'm not.

The first type is the one chosen by prophesy to do X. And this usually makes it sound like person going to fail, but in the end this is not so. I do not think there's much ways to do this usefully. (I think Harry Potter did it about as well as possible, using no twisted or vague wording at all, and not predicting an outcome. And it was mostly a plot device to motivate Voldemort, and no one else based their actions on it. And even them I'm not too enamored of it.) I think most people here are talking about that kind.

But there's the other sort of Chosen One. The Buffy sort. The Green Lantern sort. Someone that, via some random chance or selection process, ends up being the only one who can do a specific thing. That sort of Chosen One I'm fine with. (Yes, there was a prophesy the first season of Buffy...I'm talking about the rest of the time, when Buffy herself was prophesy-free.)

In the end, the story tends to focus down to the protagonist's actions, to something that only they can do. And a Chosen One is a Plot Devices to explain why this is.

But the prophesy-based one is an imaginary reason with based in destiny and fate and making the actions of everyone else futile. It's interesting enough, to start with, but it's very overused and needs to go away for a bit. I especially don't like it when it seems to be the sole motivation for the hero.

While the other is close to the real world. Yes, we don't have aliens handing out weapons that can only be wielded by one person, or people uniquely gifted with super-strength...but there might be a stick-shift that can only be driven the hero, or the hero might be the only one with physical resemblance for the infiltration, or the entire rest of the team ended up captured, etc, etc.

Or, to put it in TV Tropisms: The issue I have isn't The Chosen One per se...my issue is with Because Destiny Says So.

Ymfon said...

If you're interested in deconstructions of The Chosen One pushed to their logical extremes, I can recommend Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy. It's been a while, but it goes something like this:

The world is about to be invaded by a terrible evil Power, and the only ones to suspect anything are the guardians of an ancient prophecy. They send out a small party to find and guide the unknowing Hero of Ages, and though reluctant at first, the young man finally accepts his destiny, faces the enemy, and promptly gets blown to bits. End of the prologue; skip ahead a thousand years to a few people just trying to survive in the tyrannical dystopia the world has become.

And things only get more complicated from there.

Makabit said...

I mean, let's face it. Is an author really going make a big deal out of the chosen one, build it all up for chapter after chapter, and then have the hero die in the first volley of arrows, leaving the other characters to look at each other and say, "Well, guess he wasn't the chosen one after all?"

Weeeeeell, George R.R. Martin does flirt with that one a touch.

I'm waiting to see if he has the ovarian fortitude to actually take out Danaerys, though. The rest were disposable, even if the reader may not have thought so. She is the author's fantasy, which is even more potent than the author's insert.

chris the cynic said...

though I realize Buffy caused every potential slayer's power to activate

I actually found that rather disturbing.

Most of the slayers we met up to that point ended up being evil (with all of one redemption I remember.) Given that that isn't true of the population of women at large, the implication is that becoming a slayer makes you much more likely to be evil. Especially since, and I missed this and only know about it from the characters talking about it after the fact so I don't know the exact details, that tendency towards evil apparently reaches back to the very first slayer.

The organization which existed for the purpose of trying to make slayers not be evil had just been destroyed.

So Buffy thinks, "Hey, I've got an idea. I'll take unsuspecting girls and women all over the world, tip them towards evil, and give them superpowers, just because I'm not sure how to deal with the problem in front of me," and somehow this is supposed to be an awesome, "Yay," moment?

Even if she doesn't give a damn about the people she hasn't met, she was surrounded by potential slayers at this point in time which meant that she was taking the people right in front of her and going, *push* "Be evil."

Yeah, great plan.

depizan said...

Holy fucking what.

I will have a longer comment later, when I can take the time to think. (After work.) But... ye gad.

Also, you may have hit on the missing piece in why I don't like Chosen Ones. Lack of consent. Other heroes choose to be heroes. Chosen Heroes have that choice made for them.

DavidCheatham said...

And I think good stories about people randomly given special power can work, and sometimes do work well. As long as effort on the part of the One(s) is required.

Stories without effort on the part of the protagonist usually suck regardless. With effort required to win the conflict, there really wasn't any conflict to start with, and without conflict, you do not actually have a 'story', you've just got some stuff that happened.

Having prophesies dictate what will happen, and/or having a superpowered protagonist, is a _very_ easy way to end up with a pseudo-story like that.

But people who write stories about super-powered people seem to realize that (How often does Superman get weakened? Every other story?) whereas people who write prophesy stories often seem not to. Of course, that's just from my POV.

Yes, some people are better at (fill in any real world thing here) than others, but the scale at which many superheroes, Jedi, Slayers, whatever are better than non-whichever is a little disturbing. Or can be. This is very much an author dependant thing. Some people can write supers without making non-supers seem worthless, other people can't.

Your problem with super powers is part of David Brin's critique of Star Wars, if you've never read that. He points out that the entire series is about which group of people with superpowers at in charge of weak normal people who have no control over everything. This appears to be the _moral_ of the story.

He has lot of other issues with Star Wars also that tend to get quoted more, like the fact that one instance of saving his son does not actually absolve Vader of mass murder. But the problem with 'elites with superpowers' is discussed in it. (I really wish I could find this. It used to be at Salon, IIRC, but is no more)

But is it really a good moral to push people into doing whatever they're objectively best at, rather than what they enjoy? Is that a good way to run a society? I don't know. But I'm not even sure most people writing Buffys or Jedi or whatever even think about that message.

Heh. I almost used Spider-Man as the example instead of Buffy, exactly because that is the motto of Spider-Man. (But he's not usually called 'Chosen'.)

I don't think the intent is 'People must do _whatever_ they're best at' as much as 'If people are good at stopping people from dying, they have to do that'.

It's still a rather dubious moral, especially since this 'stopping' usually involves life-risking. But I don't think it's intended to apply to non-lifesaving stuff.

There are works that do something like you're talking about, but it's usually in the guise of 'You should do whatever makes you happy...and what truly makes you happy isn't goofing around, it's hard work saving the planet'.

chris the cynic said...

I should point out though, that the last time I saw Buffy the Vampire Slayer was when the series ended more than nine years ago. So I could be remembering things incorrectly.

Ymfon said...

Apart from Faith (who I guess is your "one redemption"?), I don't recall any downright evil slayers. The line was created by forcing the power of a demon on a captive young girl, though.

Aidan Bird said...

Depizan, speaking of no white doods in space. My Elivera novel would actually be just that - there is no white males in the main cast. In fact, the main cast is mostly females with darker skin tones, and the few males in the cast also have darker skin tones. I didn't really plan it that way, guess it came out that way in my determination to avoid the white-washing that is sci fi currently.


I think everyone in "Irresponsible Captain Tylor" is Japanese, but I barely remember it. Also, yes, Voyager was written terribly. It had a great idea, and it started with great characters, but then they just failed in the character development department - it's like they remember in the last half of the last season that developing characters was a good idea, so they tried to rush it in. They also failed in the plot - dragging it on when they could have just wrapped it up much earlier and had a better story for it. >< Ugh. The sad part is not only was it fairly diverse,, especially considering this is Star Trek we're discussing, but they didn't write the diversity well. For example, Chekotay (I always mispell his name) was supposedly Native American, but they wrote his character as a stereotype, and rushed all development at the end of the series - and even then his character was way too much of a giant, walking stereotype to be believable. The worst part was that the most developed character of the entire series was the white male hologram doctor. Even the awesome Captain Janeway wasn't as developed as that white male hologram doctor, and Captain Janeway was the main protagonist of the show. Double ugh.

I don't know what is worse - having no diversity or having it but doing it badly. I guess both are equally bad? DS9 I could never get into because it was so incredibly dark, and it took place on a station, where the storyline just dragged far too much in the beginning. I lost interest within the first season. Babylon 5 had a much, much better storyline for a space station story, but at the same time, it wasn't quite as diverse as DS9 either, and I'm not really going to count alien races as "diverse" since the human side was mainly all white.


I'm trying to wrack my brain for any novels I've read that were more diverse, but all I can think of is Hyperion Cantos, and in all honesty, around three-fourths of the main characters were still white. It's that one-fourth that weren't that makes me think at least this author tried to make it not completely, one-hundred percent white, white, white. I may go back through some of the Sci fi books I've read and make a list of any that have at the very least one non-white character as part of the main cast (and I'll note whether they die a horrible death or not, since that seems an annoying trope that doesn't die.)

Speaking of that, I have another to add to the list: a non-white character that is part of the good guy side, and is on the main cast, that ends up dying a horrible death to prove a point to the main white guy. A variation of that: the female lover or sister or the main white guy dies a horrible death so he can grow and fight the bad guy in a fit of rage/revenge/seeking retribution. Can those tropes just die a horrible death and never return?

Aidan Bird said...

Silver, I very much like this way of doing the Chosen Ones and prophecy, for then a large group of people are working together on this, and it's not any one person, for no one knows if they aren't the key element. Thus everyone ends up working together, each thinking their an integral part of saving their world.

If there was more of this, then I'd be very happy to read it, for it's an interesting take, and there's a lot of ways to explore it. It'd also serve as a counterpoint to the current narrative in society that we can "pull ourselves up by our bootstrap" and never need help to do our dreams, which is a bit of a nonsensical narrative for everything we do relies in part on what others have done before us and are doing with us currently. So more stories that reveal the truth of that I would welcome gladly.

I have yet to finish Asimov's Foundation Series, so I'll see if I discern the same interpretation as you in it. So far, that sounds a lot like what I've read thus far. Just never thought of his book that way.

depizan said...

Another quicky with a promise to say more later (still at work).

I don't know if I've ever read Brin's critique of Star Wars, but, at least as described, it sounds like he's rather reaching - depending on whether he's talking about the original trilogy, all six movies, or everything what is Star Wars. If he's talking about the original trilogy, my initial impression is Bzuh? Since there's a grand total of one (1) Jedi alive at the end of them, plus one (1) other Force sensitive. Neither of whom are the leader of the rebelion that just won the day. (That would be Mon Mothma, the woman who gave the briefing.) Now if we're talking about the prequel trilogy, hell to the yeah, it's got that problem. And the EU does at least part of the time, depending on when we're talking about and who's writing it. (Actually, collectively, the Star Wars universe has this problem...it's only if you just take the original three movies that it doesn't. Or a few specific EU stories.) But that's way more commenting than I meant to without reading the critique.

It's still a rather dubious moral, especially since this 'stopping' usually involves life-risking. But I don't think it's intended to apply to non-lifesaving stuff.

I'm quite certain I'm smart enough to be a doctor. I would hate it. I would be terrible at it. I would probably have a nervous breakdown before I finished my residency. But I might save lives before the nervous breakdown. Of course superhero stuff would just write me off as a failure or a villain. There's a cult of strength in there somewhere, too.

Crap, out of break. Back later.

Aidan Bird said...

My only point is that it still can be subverted in a manner that turns the trope on its head. It's not the only thing I read - I don't read a lot of them to be honest. But I do tend toward books that subvert common tropes and/or explore more unusual territory. I think the problem in this discussion is that everyone has the generic chosen one idea in their head and all they can see is one way to do it. I don't believe there is one way to portray it, and if you twist the idea around and turn the story into a critical examination of the trope and what it could actually mean for a society (good or bad), then that examination seems worthwhile in my opinion.

You may not agree, and that's fine, but I personally like it when people pull off a subversion of a very common trope - especially an overly used one.

Prophecies - like I mentioned before - is something I only like if it's fragmented, chaotic, and cannot be perfectly interpreted. Clear prophecies that are set in stone makes no sense to me, and thus I revolt against them. Which is why I appreciate authors like Tamora Pierce, who show that prophecies are an incredibly messy, hard to interpret, and frustrating business that could end up with nothing to show but fragments that are nonsensical. They then don't play any major role, and is only useful for huge giant events that are spread over an extremely large area - and even that prophecy doesn't give enough details to explain the disaster - only that this vague disaster is going to happen to several thousand if not a million or so people. It's like a magical version of our technology advances in detecting earthquakes, approaching asteriods/meteors, volcanic eruptions, and so forth. Now that kind of prophecy is far more interesting to me.

Aidan Bird said...

Agree with you and Mary Kaye both. It's my favorite of the Elder Scrolls games. For all the reasons you listed and more.

JonathanPelikan said...

TANGENT POST: Just reblogged this from my fiance.

http://hunterblackluna.tumblr.com/post/28703253726/explosivefangirlism

I'd love to try singing this at some point. I'm a musical-y guy sometimes.

Aidan Bird said...

Except that was the beauty of Buffy's later seasons, there were instances where even Xander - yes, good ole Xander who is often the comical relief - was able to save the world in a situation where Buffy could do absolutely nothing. I definitely cannot fully agree that the story revolves entirely around Buffy's Slayer powers, for not all the episodes relied on it and often they spent time developing the other characters and showing how they were integral to Buffy's team, how she could not do what she's doing without them, which is the main reason I liked the show so much. It subverted the "chosen one" idea to some extent, and showed that in the end, a fight is won by people working together, irregardless of if their leader has great superpowers or not.

I think the superheros of the comics books - especially Marvel or DC is more inline with what you're saying here, for I definitely find most of them to be more inline with your critique of superheros being better and/or more important than non-powered heroes. Avengers seemed to try to tackle this idea with Widow and Hawk (that is the name of the guy with the arrows, right?) but even though they had no super-powers, they were still highly trained agents and not really regular people like those on the street. Though I suppose it would be hard to create a non-superhero that isn't highly trained in combat in order to be able to fight alongside a superhero and still be worthwhile in a fight. Which ties into the problem with scale that you mentioned.


As a side note: The idea of cooperation to solve problems is just refreshing, for I often feel that a lot of novels, comics, and shows focus on one (or at most two people) solving everything with little to no help, which I found a bit frustrating at times.

Ana Mardoll said...

Quickly dropping in to quote the Shakesville motto for open thread:

Please refrain from negatively auditing other people's picks, because judgment discourages participation in the open thread question.

Carry on. :)

Aidan Bird said...

In Angel, you see a slayer who went mad once her powers hit her because of Buffy's decision. It's a sad, sad tale, because the girl had been ..... spoilers!

..............
.....
.
.
.
.

the girl had been horrifically abused, and so was trapped in a traumatic nightmare that her newly awaken slayer abilities just intensified. So she hadn't really become evil per se, just a bit crazy with no one to explain what was happening to her. Angel and Spike try to save her, but in the end it is Willow and a team of slayers Buffy trusts who come and rescue the girl.

In Angel we learn that Buffy is doing everything she can to create a giant network of trusted slayers and non-slayers to find all the slayers she awakened and properly train them. So she's trying at least to deal with her crazy decision, so in a way, she spends the rest of her life working to help those slayers, wherever they are, and getting them the aid they need to cope. So to me I saw that as Buffy trying to redeem herself due to her insane decision to not be completely honest about the darker sides of that burden. So there is some evidence here that Buffy realized just what she had done and how it wasn't really a great moment - that maybe it was actually harmful to many, many girls. There is some evidence also that she is trying to rebuild the network that kept slayers from going evil, but again there isn't as much as I wanted, for there's only a few episodes in Angel that covers this.

It doesn't deal with the lack of consent in regards to the more darker aspects of slayers, but at least it shows her trying to deal with the problem.

Brin Bellway said...

apparently all women look alike, only to be distinguished by hair color. Never mind all the military stories featuring men in uniforms and with the same buzzcut. No one has trouble telling them apart.

I was just thinking recently how if I didn't have different hair colours to help me, my recognition failure rate would go up significantly. Still, Generic White Dark-Haired Guys do turn up far too often.

(My usual solution to such military movies is to not care which one is which. I don't pay money for them; I usually don't even pay much attention.)

chris the cynic said...

I don't think Buffy's decision was crazy or insane, I think it was lazy, callous and cruel.

To the point that in the end when Buffy's private army came to take the hurt and abused girl Buffy had inflicted so much harm upon away from Angel and the people who actually had devoted their lives to making a living helping people and did it with a giant dose of, "We don't trust you," I have precisely zero faith things will be better for that girl.

And if you want a good example of why it's a bad idea to use insane to describe decisions like Buffy's that girl is a perfect example. She had lost her sanity. Comparing her situation to Buffy's would be an incredible disservice to her. What was done to her wasn't insane, it was simply wrong. Inexcusably wrong.

GeniusLemur said...

I was never clear on what Buffy's slayer powers were, and what she could do that couldn't be duplicated with, say, special forces training.

chris the cynic said...

There was a point when her boyfriend was special forces. In a sparing match she beat him easily and felt bad about it afterward. Willow (I think it was Willow) said she shouldn't feel bad because holding back would have been disrespectful/dishonest/[something like that], at which point Buffy explained that she had been holding back.

Slayer beats special forces training.

GeniusLemur said...

I didn't see that episode, I never watched many episodes, but I saw enough fights, and I never saw anything to indicate Buffy or anyone else was any faster, stronger, etc. than a normal human being. I've seen plenty of fights involving the Terminator/Superman/Iron Monkey/etc with signs both obvious and subtle that these characters are far more than the average human. But with Buffy, all I ever so was normal people doing normal fighting. The few times I saw Xander or someone fight vampires or whatever, they did just as well as Buffy.

Silver Adept said...

@Aidan Bird -

Foundation starts that way, and manages to hold on to it through the first book. After, that, though, the Plan becomes peripheral to stories about particular individuals and their lives, and less about how the groups of people are supposed to work together in ignorance of the plan (basically, Asimov pulls an Asimov by showing off how easy it is for what people think is an ironclad thing to get completely subverted. See also: Three Laws Of Robotics.)

Aidan Bird said...

Except for the crashing through walls. Buffy's friends learned fighting from Buffy and her watcher, and the most they could do was dodge and try to kill the vampires as a team. They couldn't ever handle any vampire alone. Any that end up alone, are usually rescued by Buffy or Angel and/or Spike (once he becomes 'good'.) So tag teaming it is the only way Buffy's friends could survive. If Buffy is fighting with her friends, then her friends mostly just focus on survival with a few lucky shots, while Buffy takes out the majority.

Buffy herself could take on an entire group of vampires - one fight had nearly fifteen of them and she still won - and kill them all. Her friends can't handle that large of a situation, and unless Buffy made it in time to help, they often were forced to retreat until Buffy could help them.

So that's the more subtle parts of Buffy's slayerness.

chris the cynic said...

The main distrust between Buffy and Angel mostly has to do with Angel taking over the Los Angeles Wolfram and Hart firm.

Oh, that was not lost on me. Of course given that he took over the organization before showing up to help her with Caleb and the First Evil (she defeated Caleb before he got involved as I recall) and she was more than willing to accept his help at that point (see spiritual knickknack of great importance delivered to Spike) it just reads as hypocritical.

She'll take help from Wolf, Ram, and Heart when it benefits her, and damn did it benefit her, but she'll condemn anyone else who does because help from a law firm created by three demons is irrevocable taint on others but not on her.

She just used their help to defeat the uber-vampires, close the Hellmouth and save the world. No big deal there.

-

this message was sent by a courier

A courier at the head of a squad of slayers who were clearly threatening real violence to take the girl away from the people who have access to the best therapists money can buy.

Also not lost on me.

-

Buffy no longer is willing to meet with Angel directly by this point

Definitely not lost on me. Nor Spike it would appear in spite of the fact that he died saving her. She'll accept the help of Wolfram and Hart so that Spike can die by fire doing her job for her, but she won't show up to tell Spike or Angel that she doesn't trust them any more. For that she sends her army and a courier. Definitely not lost on me.

Ana Mardoll said...

We saw an X Files the other night that had two brunette women in it. I swear I couldn't keep them apart.

So it's not just you. :)

chris the cynic said...

All that someone needs to do is change their hair and I won't be able to recognize them anymore.

And I most certainly have trouble telling people apart, sometimes people that others don't even see the similarity between.

So we're up to three.

Ana Mardoll said...

This is a very gentle, hug-filled reminder that we don't just Use With Care words like "mad" and "crazy" here because they are often used inaccurately; we also avoid them because they are trigger words for many people.

I haven't watched Buffy, but if there's a way to talk about Willow's walk on the dark side without using the term "mad with grief", I would appreciate it very muchly. Otherwise, we need to TW further posts with Discussion of Mental Illness, please.

Thank you.

chris the cynic said...

Much of the girl's trauma came from before she was turned into a slayer also - but the slayer part just made everything worse.

And see, that's part of the problem. Because to Buffy's representative that made her an "anomaly". A thing to be discussed in terms of probability and expectation. To Angel she was an innocent victim, to Spike she was someone like he and Angel had been. They saw her as a person. Buffy's representative saw her as an unexpected outcome.

And at that point I don't care who's been consorting with demons more. I trust the people who see her as a person.

-

Sorry for spreading the response across two posts. I really don't know why I didn't say this first thing because it is pretty important with respect to not just Buffy's organization, but also the differences I see between the two shows.

Angel (show and character) is much more focused on the side of the victims and redemption, in my opinion.

Mime_Paradox said...

Aidan Bird:
I'll have to think on it a bit to see if there was any others that had non-Japanese character portrayed respectfully...
The original Macross? I'm not all that familiar with it outside its Robotech incarnation--more of that in a minute--but that one had a decent amount of prominent non-Japanese character (the series followed a refugees from an island, although the three main characters were, of course, Japanese), and, depending on how similar the original is to its adaptation, I'd say it did a reasonably good job with some, if not all, of its non-Japanese characters. Plus, I really appreciate that they went an included a multi-racial relationship.
Then there’s Robotech, whose approach to diversity is even more interesting. For example, it’s Macross adaptation made two of its three protagonists Caucasian instead of Japanese while keeping the third character’s Chinese-Japanese heritage; since a large part of the series revolves around a love triangle between the three, that means that one of the legs of said triangle involves an interracial relationship—one that’s treated like any other relationship, given that it wasn’t interracial in the original. What’s more, at least one character goes from being Caucasian in the original to Japanese in the American adaptation—at least, if one goes by names (IsaviaSatori). While it’s not perfect—there’s an instance in which two characters of color who were unrelated in the source material (they came from two different shows) are made aunt and nephew, which is deeply problematic for obvious reasons (although It’s More Complicated Than That)—it was better at being diverse than almost anything else airing at the time (1985).
More recently, it makes me chuckle how the Phoenix Wright series, in its attempts to translate the original game to an American setting, probably has more non-stereotypical Latino characters than any other series I can remember.
In any case, going to the actual topic of the thread, I could use less of couples whose ability to
deal with obstacles in their relationship evaporates after they actually get together.

Amaryllis said...

Belatedly checking in, and much of what I'd say has been said. Triangles, and anachronisms, and prophecies, and characters who are described one way and act another, and people withholding vital information with no good reason... all that.

I used to read mysteries by the dozen, and had no objection to the "cozy" type. Then one day, I realized that it was going to be a long time before I read any more books where the heroine inherits an interesting business in a small town filled with local color, and stumbles over corpses and stumbles into solutions while dithering over dating the local cop... Not that there's anything wrong with those books, I just don't want to read that story any more for a while.

Not a fictional trope, but you know what else I'm tired of? Pundits pundit-ing about how Brave and The Hunger Games are signs of "how the culture is sacrificing boys to promote girls."

Dear Sir: As of today, my local mega-multiplex is showing 17 films. Of which Brave is the ONLY ONE with a female lead. (Unless you count Tyler Perry's Madea, which, although I haven't seen it, I don't think so). I really think the boys will be okay.

Lonespark said...

I will fight at your side til my last breath, Nathaniel. DS9 at its best is scifi at its best and storytelling at its best.

Amaryllis said...

Oh, yes, and while I'm thinking about the detective/mystery genre, I have one simple request: no more serial killers, please.

It's much more interesting when your murderer has a specific reason to murder a specific person.

BaseDeltaZero said...

The Green Lantern can't (so far as I know) loan his ring to his nextdoor neighbor Sally for a week.


They can, theoretically - but controlling the ring takes a huge amount of discipline. So it'd be hard to just lend it to someone, but it's in part a developed talent...


I knew I was forgetting something. AND NOT WARNING THEM FIRST. She told them she'd give them power, not a word, not a single fucking word, about the potential down side. Informed consent, she does not bother.


Was 'slayers tend to turn evil' actually a thing or just a series of dramatic conveniencies? Because it may just be that they decided 'hmm, we should have an evil slayer' a few too many times... or maybe a general 'power corrupts' thing...


The line was created by forcing the power of a demon on a captive young girl, though.

What could they not find anyone to volunteer for superpowers?


He points out that the entire series is about which group of people with superpowers at in charge of weak normal people who have no control over everything. This appears to be the _moral_ of the story.

Except... the Jedi worked for the Senate (normal people), not the other way around. Jedi tend to be protagonists, because they are teh kewl, but they tend to have relatively little political power.


Widow and Hawk

Black Widow and Hawkeye.


they were still highly trained agents and not really regular people like those on the street. Though I suppose it would be hard to create a non-superhero that isn't highly trained in combat in order to be able to fight alongside a superhero and still be worthwhile in a fight.

Do you know what happens when a regular person off the street gets in a fight with trained soldiers, let alone soldiers with superpowers? They die. Making it vaguely credible that the heroes could actually win seems... reasonable, personally.


I was never clear on what Buffy's slayer powers were, and what she could do that couldn't be duplicated with, say, special forces training.

Lift a tank. Run several hundred miles per hour. Survive getting thrown through a brick wall...

There's a reason people say she'd wipe the floor with Edward in a straight fight.

depizan said...

Okay, back from work, caught up on the discussion. And I realize that I do not know enough about Buffy to discuss the show in any useful way. I watched all of the first three seasons, then sporadically, then stopped altogether, then caught the last episode somehow. As you may not be surprised to hear, the show got waaaaaay too depressing for me and appeared predictable in an anti-sitcom way. (There will be no happiness! Joss hates happiness! I know his comment about hating happiness, whatever it was, was a joke, but he does seem fond of stories peeing on any happiness any character has. And his storytelling style isn't compatible with my story-enjoying style. What he thinks ups the stakes, kills my interest*.) So... bowing out of Buffy discussing. I'd just be talking out my ass. (But I will listen with fascination.)

I do think the lack of consent in Chosen One stuff (most of it, anyway) is yet another piece of why I don't like it. And I feel like adding in prophesies and Chosen Ones can badly muddy what's going on - one of the ways in which I think the Harry Potter books went off the rails. Why was Harry important? Because his mother loved him? Because he was a Horcrux? Because Voldie thought he was? Because he was a good person? Because the camera was stuck to him? Me, I ended up wishing it had switched to Nevile, one of the few characters I still liked and still found heroic once the book was over. I'm just much more drawn to ordinary people doing the right thing than to people being shoved at heroic destinies whether they want them or not.

Also, I found David Brin's Star Wars critique. Parts I agree with, parts I see where he's coming from and disagree, and on one issue I'm fairly certain he saw a completely different series of films. (And one I'm terribly confused about.) I'm not sure whether I should burble about it here or on my blog, though. It'd be rather off topic.



*Note to creators: to some people, I'm sure "anyone can die" makes the story exciting because now you don't know who will live! Drama! But for some of us, it just means we should stop investing any emotional energy in the characters for our own protection. If it's not safe to care about the characters, I'm gone. Bye.

depizan said...

I was actually thinking more along the lines of "where do we factor in works from some other culture being consumed by ours" when thinking about diversity in fiction. Obviously, they don't add to diversity for the Japanese. (Excepting the few occasions in which they do depict diversity.) But does one count them at all when Americans are reading/watching them?

(And yeah, the Japanese culture has issues. Massive ones. Though...I'm not sure if the one example you mention isn't in fact a different one of their massive issues. Japanese women aren't safe on public transit either. Er, and I am also well aware that American culture has massive issues, so this isn't a we're better than them thing.)

Aidan Bird said...

I do apologize - I also can't edit the post to fix it either. Nothing happens when I hit edit?

I'm not sure how else to describe it because she loses her sanity with her grief at the loss of Tara. I suppose that should have had a TW about mental illness then, so I apologize for that.

Ana Mardoll said...

Thank you for understanding. I'll try to add TWs tomorrow if I get a chance to get on the computer.

Thanks. :)

Ana Mardoll said...

This. I won't name He Who Must Not Be Spoken Of, but that's my experience with gritty "anyone can die" dramas - I just check out mentally because I don't want to get invested in cannon fodder. :(

Aidan Bird said...

My example was just an example. It wasn't meant to be a "we're better than them thing." It was meant to show this is what their society is like, and any female - Japanese or not - can be targeted, yes.

It was more an explanation of why Anime is the way it is more than anything is.

depizan said...

Oh, no, I didn't think you meant that! I just didn't want anyone to think that I meant that. It's always a concern I have when talking about other cultures, especially since some Americans do go around acting like only other cultures have problems.

Rikalous said...

On racial diversity in anime: Darker Than Black has a lot of foreign characters (they might actually outnumber the significant Japanese characters) treated with the same respect as the Japanese ones. For instance, the protagonist is Chinese, and his allies are a Japanese guy, a European gal, and one guy who's stuck in a cat body with a code name, so who knows. The comic relief characters are all Japanese, so no funny foreigner shenanigans.

Monster has a Japanese hero, but everyone else is from Germany, the Czech Republic, or somewhere else in Europe since that's where the story is.

Durarara has a hulking black Russian man who's generally used for comic relief, but is clearly smart and level-headed, especially when he gets the chance to speak his native language instead of his shaky Japanese. One of the most protagonisty of the characters (it's very much an ensemble show, so there's no one lead) also happens to be Irish, but that tends to be overshadowed by the fact that she's a headless horsewoman.

Lonespark said...

I have mostly read fantasy lately, but I do have a few scifi antidotes to White Dudes in Spaaaace:

Crystal Rain by Tobias Buckell and the sequels, Ragamuffin and Sly Mongoose.

I really want more people to read them and talk about them with me!

Silver Adept said...

After talking with Amarie on her blog, I realize that I'm very tired of a character type - the Ugly Duckling transformed, whether physical or mental (becoming objectively beautiful by makeover, or getting past their own mental blocks to recognize their objective beauty). This might have been mentioned upthread.

depizan said...

The question is, are there any happy, fun stories that aren't about White Dudes in Spaaaace?

*sigh*

I have to pass on so many interesting sounding and probably quite good stories because they're also too dark/grim/icky for me. :(

Lonespark said...

Happy, fun? Yeah, I guess I can't recommend those on that basis. I mean, I found them enjoyable, but also fairly grim and horrific at points.

I do find large chunks of DS9 very fun, though.

But I know I have go-to happy fun somewhere.

Rakka said...

I don't think there are any Japanese-descent people in Legend of Galactic Heroes. It's pretty caucasian though - the Empire is German altogether, and the Alliance, while more varied and loaded with Asian names in the backstory, is also heavily caucasian. The token POC in the first season-ish is the head of the Alliance's star fleet, but he retires and the second token POC is a lot more... stereotypical. It's pretty disappointing, seein that the show at least makes an effort and does so well at some points. If you want 110 episodes of anyone can die (nooooo!) in reasonably realistic, well-presented space opera, go for it. One thing I liked about it is how both the Empire and Alliance are shown to have their heroes and backstabbing assnoodles, there's no "good" and "bad" major faction there.

Anthony Rosa said...

In response to your first paragraph:

No, unless the prophecy ACTUALLY meant that this Chosen One would gather together a group of people who WOULD be capable of defeating the evil overlord, because the reason s/he's the Chosen One is because of exceptional team-building skills.

DavidCheatham said...

She did say, via courier and army, to Angel that it did cause that kind of taint and they weren't on the same side.

She didn't say 'Working _with_ W&H causes that kind of taint'. She said working _for_ them causes her to distrust them and for them to be on the wrong side of the fight. Or, rather, Andrew said that, and we're for some reason assuming everything he said came directly from her, which I'm not sure is correct. Andrew is prone to making stuff up on the fly, so we have no idea how much of what he was saying actually came from Buffy's mouth.

But even assuming everything Andrew related about Buffy's opinion is accurate, a hero happening to be on the same side as evil, and temporarily accepting their help, is perfectly reasonable and happens in fiction all the time., although the hero should expect to get stabbed in the back. (Which was W&H's plan, although no one ever points it out. They expected Angel to wear the amulet, and get trapped in it.) Buffy herself accepted the help of still-evil Spike back in Buffy season two, because it turns out that neither of them wanted the world to end.

Working _for_ them is something else altogether. While Angel is supposedly 'running' W&H's LA branch, it's probably notable that Andrew says he's working 'for' W&H. Buffy's group doesn't believe Angel is in charge. Which he's really not. Or they wouldn't lose Fred just four episodes later.

And I'll point out there are very very specific reasons not to trust Angel, and I'm not talking about Angelus. She was in contact with Cordelia and Weasley, she knows what kind of crap Angel pulled just three years ago during season 2 of Angel.

depizan said...

I've noticed an unfortunate correlation between more liberally and inclusively minded and too-dark for me. Or rather, I have the bad feeling that a lot of fun is written by people who don't think deeply about things. There are exceptions (Avatar: the Last Airbender comes to mind, though I still haven't worked up the courage to try Korra, because i've gotten the impression it's darker.) It's discouraging to be caught between being very sick of "white doods solve stuff by punching things" and yet loving the high adventure, fun, and optimism that that's generally packaged with. Not that it's anyone's job to solve my problem, of course. Though I do wish there was more fun high adventure with diverse casts and thinkiness.

DavidCheatham said...

Found it! http://www.salon.com/1999/06/15/brin_main/

Here's his five major issues:

Elites have an inherent right to arbitrary rule; common citizens needn’t be consulted. They may only choose which elite to follow.
“Good” elites should act on their subjective whims, without evidence, argument or accountability.
Any amount of sin can be forgiven if you are important enough.
True leaders are born. It’s genetic. The right to rule is inherited.
Justified human emotions can turn a good person evil.

Nathaniel said...

It is, but it also has a happy ending. And no protagonists die.

So, just so long as we're making conversation, just what to you constitutes "dark" and "too dark" and what turns you off with such works?

chris the cynic said...

Which he's really not. Or they wouldn't lose Fred just four episodes later.

It's debatable whether that's a result of Angel not being in charge. It isn't debatable that team Buffy, represented this time by Giles the murderer, refused to even consider helping to deal with what happened to Fred.

I also think that it's a very unclear distinction you're making. Buffy wasn't working for them when she defeated their most formidable enemy in the history of ever? Hell, they probably should have offered her the chance to run a branch because defeating the First has to have advanced Wolfram and Hart's plans more than defeating Jasmine ever could have.

If you're looking for whose done more work on their behalf, it seems like it was Buffy in a matter of days rather than Angel in five seasons.

Of course the truth is that it was never about who had worked for them the best, it was about the prophecy. They wanted Angel. So the fact that Buffy did more for them doesn't factor in.

-

And I'll point out there are very very specific reasons not to trust Angel

Oh, certainly. And Cordelia, who dies next episode, or Wesley who did the physical work of calling Slayercorp in, or Spike, or anyone on team Angel, not to mention the reasons she has for not trusting Andrew, Willow, Faith and Giles. Has Xander ever been evil? Xander she might be able to trust, but I'm probably just forgetting some atrocity on his part. It's hardly insignificant that when team Buffy and team Angel get together on good terms Wesley and Willow take the time to have a nice back and forth about the depths of evil to which they've sunk. (This was earlier, of course.)

depizan said...

Yep, I found it as well and responded up thread. Points 3 and 5 are there to an extent, but I have no idea where he's getting the others. (Okay, maaaaaybe 2, but I think it's a stretch.) 1 and 4 just leave me going, um, did you see the same movies I did. (This is original trilogy only, mind. I do think those points are found to varying degrees elsewhere in the Star Wars universe. I just can't figure out where he got them in the original trilogy. Of course, as I said up thread, he also missed Kirk when he watched Star Trek, so IDK.)

I'd link to my earlier response, but I don't know how. Sorry.

depizan said...

Subjective things are so very hard to explain, but I'll try. Where the work falls on the sliding scale of idealism and cynicism. How horrible a things can happen in it (especially that are actually dealt with realistically - some works get away with things they really shouldn't), and some horrible things are -generally - off the table completely for me. Whether or not the protagonists live. Anyone can die is not my thing. Happy endings are pretty much mandatory, for me. (Doesn't have to be perfect or all sunshine and roses, but basically happy.) Good triumphs or is implied will eventually triumph. I pretty much go for straight up escapist adventure fiction.

Now, some authors (Lois McMaster Bujold comes to mind) manage to drag me waaaaay out of my comfort zone but keep me reading anyway. (Not that I reread Mirror Dance very often. Can we say way the hell too dark? Why yes.) But even she manages most of my requirements, she just goes sailing of into dark and icky every so often.

I suppose the short answer is "I am a wuss. There are Disney movies too dark for me." Hell, I boggled a friend recently by telling him that the Stephanie Plum series is too dark and gritty for me.

Lonespark said...

I don't really feel that Korra is darker than AtLA, but I would love to hear others' opinions.

There were a lot of dark horrible things in the AtLA world. They weren't explicitly spoken of or shown on screen, and they were kind of...tokenized? I mean, like, Katara & Sokka's mom stands in for a lot of other people who were killed in the war, we understand that that happened but we don't dwell on it.

LoK also has a lot of humor and a lot of not-going-there regarding darker implications. I guess it's slightly darker in that it explicitly shows that good intentions don't always lead to good results. Republic City was founded as a kind of Utopian place, and it doesn't really live up to that, but it's more in a "life and politics are complicated," way than anything that indicates there aren't good guys or they can't win.

There's more 'shipping in the main cast early on, and that's not something everyone wants. There are a lot more main adult characters, too, and that changes things, but I don't know how I would characterize those changes.

I think it is awesome and so do my very young kids. I highly recommend it. You haven't lived until you've seen a fire ferret eat too many noodles, or heard Ikki and Jinora discuss romance, or watched Asami Sato drive and be awesome all over the place, or met Commander Bumi, or...

Lonespark said...

Just, SRSLY, Earthbending plus car chases.

Aidan Bird said...

Depizan, oh, i probably misread then! I apologize for that.

Aidan Bird said...

Rikalous, I've heard of Monster but not the others! I'll have to check these out. I've watched quite a few Anime, but of the ones I watched, I found very little diversity, so it's always interesting to hear that there is some out there at least to a small degree.

chris the cynic said...

TW: misappropriation of mental health related term to mean evil.

And actually, where is Xander during all of this* since he's the one who argued that, "When our friends go all crazy and start killing people, we help them," (which is how things had been done) ought to be how things should be done.

Ok, so technically Angel and company never reached the point of "and start killing people" and thus maybe the rule doesn't apply to them. But if one thinks that they're on the road to start killing people, wouldn't preventive help be a good idea? Or at least asking what's up to find out if they were really heading that way?

Of course, Buffy shot that entire concept down. I didn't remember how exactly, I just remembered it could be paraphrased to, "No. We do not help our friends." (I did remember Willow's "Sitting right here.")

First there was the appeal to fantastic racism, "She's a human. Anya's a demon." Because the Buffyverse isn't filled to the brim with good demons.

Then there's a bit of pointing out Buffy's rampant hypocrisy and then she imposes the double standard. For her there was an explanation, which she delivered, without protest, for the other side it's:

BUFFY: I don't care what she's going through!

XANDER: No, of course not. You think we haven't seen all this before? The part where you just cut us all out. Just step away from everything human and act like you're the law.

[Massive snip.]

BUFFY: And at some point, someone has to draw the line, and that is always going to be me. You get down on me for cutting myself off, but in the end the Slayer is always cut off. There's no mystical guidebook. No all-knowing council. Human rules don't apply. There's only me. I am the law.

--

Buffy never repents. The episode ends with the person she would have killed choosing to make the ultimate sacrifice to save people. The people are saved that end goes as expected, but what happens in terms of payment extracted on her end makes "Ultimate Sacrifice" seem desirable by comparison. If Buffy had her way, those people would be dead. That doesn't seem to bother her in the least.

Xander and Willow tried to save the life of a friend. Buffy wrote off the only person with the power to save those already lost and went for the kill. Consorting with demons, one actually viciously evil demon, was how Willow got Anya the chance to save the lives of those innocents that Buffy would have condemned to death in her drive to kill for the sake of killing.

Which makes me think, maybe, sending Xander and Willow far away from Buffy "I am the law" Summers was a bad idea. They know when to consort with demons to get the job done. They know that you don't cut loose your friends without at least checking with them first. They know that other people's reasons matter, not just the reasons of the Slayer.

-

* Yeah, I know, Africa.

DavidCheatham said...

I also think that it's a very unclear distinction you're making. Buffy wasn't working for them when she defeated their most formidable enemy in the history of ever? Hell, they probably should have offered her the chance to run a branch because defeating the First has to have advanced Wolfram and Hart's plans more than defeating Jasmine ever could have.

Huh? There's a _very_ large distinction between 'Joining an evil organization' and 'Saving the world, which an evil organization is also in favor of, as they living in the world'.

And, indeed, using the same logic that had the Senior Partners offer a position to Angel, they could have just as easily offered it to Buffy. The issue isn't they offered it to Angel, it's that he _accepted_.

not to mention the reasons she has for not trusting Andrew, Willow, Faith and Giles.

She _doesn't_ trust Andrew. I don't even understand why anyone would think otherwise. A year ago at this time she kept him tied to a chair! She just used him as a spokeman. Heck, it's possible she selected him because he was expendable and she worried he wouldn't make it out of W&H alive.

She mostly trusts Faith. Because Faith turned herself in and got help.

She probably doesn't entirely trust Willow. She, IIRC, has to reassure Willow that she _does_ trust her in the series finale, which is the kind of thing you have to do when your actions show you don't actually trust someone.

And I'm not sure why she shouldn't trust Giles. You keep calling him a murderer, but the issue isn't whether or not killing Ben was 'murder', it's whether or not Buffy can _trust_ him. It is entirely possible to trust murderers. (Giles actually did betray Buffy once, years ago, as part of the Council...and he repented, losing his position, and he regained her trust eventually.)

And all those people, in theory, repented their actions and tried to make up for them. Angel _currently_ works for W&H. There's no indication she wouldn't trust him again once he stopped.

And there's a rather large difference between Buffy trusting _employees_ in her organization (Which is basically what Andrew, Faith, Willow, and Giles are) that she can wrangle, and handing someone off to an evil organization she has no control over and cannot keep an eye on. If Willow decides to go evil and (for some reason) starts trying to dissect Dana, Buffy will _know_ and can stop it. If W&H decides to do that, she won't and can't.

Lonespark said...

I would like a lot less of the white protagonist in stories that are really about POC. So, White Saviors and their analogues, (looking at you, Avatar the most annoying thing I have ever watched in 3-D) but also white viewpoint characters who basically watch the action because gods forbid the audience identify with POC heroes or even observers.

Related but not particularly offensive is the young narrator who observes and/or gets tangentially involved in historical events in YA fiction. The first book I thought of when I thought of this was War Comes to Willy Freeman. I guess it was more memorable than the sixty zillion other historical YA books I choose to read and had to read for school? In my memory it is a pretty interesting and potentially problematic example of the genre. Anybody else remember/have opinions about this book?

chris the cynic said...

Angel ended up having to play their game, seem to side with W&H, and seem to turn evil in the end before he could even achieve his main goal. Since Angel could not reveal any of his plans, how could Buffy and her team not take that as a bad sign?

The seeming to turn evil part of the plan didn't even begin to be implemented until after episode 12 and it was gradual at first, Dana was abducted by the army of Slayers never to be seen or heard from again, not even in extracanonical expanded universe works, in episode 11.

Unless Buffy could see the future, she couldn't possibly have seen Angel seeming to turn evil. It hadn't started yet. And if she could see the future, then she a) should have warned about Fred, b) should have warned about Wesley, c) would have known that Angel was going to hurt Wolfram and Hart, not be corrupted by it.

I don't buy argument from ignorance, but I also don't buy argument from "Buffy saw these things that hadn't happened yet."

chris the cynic said...

Huh? There's a _very_ large distinction between 'Joining an evil organization' and 'Saving the world, which an evil organization is also in favor of, as they living in the world'.

As far as Buffy knows, he didn't join. He took over. Again, if she knew about the failsafe measures and didn't send a hint in the direction of Angel's people she's just a horrible person, so we have to assume she didn't know.

As far as she knows Angel is leading Wolfram and Hart's LA office every bit as much as she was leading the Wolfram and Hart equipped operation in Sunnydale.

Wolfram and Hart wanted First stopped, they provided the material, Buffy provided the leadership.

Using only information Buffy had available to her at the time, could you explain to me how, what Angel was doing was different from, "They provided the material, Angel provided the leadership."

The major difference seems to be that unlike with Buffy there wasn't a clear Wolfram and Hart objective to be completed. Well, everybody knew that the objective was to corrupt Angel because they wanted him on their side in the final battle, but other than that there wasn't a clear Wolfram and Hart objective to be completed.

DavidCheatham said...

Yes. There are two organizations that can deal with Dana. (Well, the mental hospital at the start managed to mostly contain her for months, but has no idea what's wrong with her.)

One of them was started by two actual slayers, including one who had some psychological problems herself, and out of the ashes of an oganization that has been dealing with Slayers since pre-history.

The other of them is an organization owned by evil entities that have been doing evil since pre-pre-history, and recently handed some control over some of their operations to some good guys, presumably as part of some Xanatos Gambit.

The simple fact is that putting Dana in the hands of W&H would have been an _exceptional stupid_ idea to start with, and I have trouble figuring out why Angel would even suggest it besides for plot purposes.

DavidCheatham said...

As far as Buffy knows, he didn't join. He took over.

Except that Buffy has a branch of W&H in the very town she's living in (Rome) and she presumably knows Angel isn't running _that_. He's just running the LA branch.

As I pointed out, Andrew said that no one trusts Angel because Angel is working _for_ W&H.

Not 'working with W&H', not 'running W&H', but 'working for W&H'. You can argue this isn't correct, but you can't argue that's what Buffy, or at least Andrew, thinks is going on. (I would, OTOH, argue that technically speaking Angel is indeed working for them, by operating a company that is a subsidiary of theirs.)

Using only information Buffy had available to her at the time, could you explain to me how, what Angel was doing was different from, "They provided the material, Angel provided the leadership."

The information that Buffy had available to her was: Angel had shown up with a book that he said would help, and that it 'wasn't remotely' from a reliable source. Also that he had an amulet, which was 'was very powerful and dangerous'.

That's it. Wolfram and Hart wasn't mentioned, in fact, the _amulet_ being from an unreliable source wasn't mentioned, just the book. And 'unreliable source' covers a lot of ground and does not mean 'evil',and also does not mean 'they decided to give it to me'. For all Buffy knows, Angel stole that book from the unreliable source. (Wouldn't be the first time.)

So you've got Buffy dead to rights: If old allies show up with a book of dubious orgins that might help with the problem at hand, she will read those books! *gasp* Meanwhile, she will distrust old allies who apparently decide to start working for evil organizations.

As those are clearly the same thing, she is clearly a huge hypocrite!

chris the cynic said...

For what it's worth, if Faith had shown up and said that Dana would have been better off with the Slayers organization I would have believed her. I also would have believed that team Buffy was worried about Wolfram and Hart in a non-hypocritical way because if you want to tell if Angel has slipped toward evil Faith is who you send.

Faith also has redeeming-slayer-who-turned-into-a-monster techniques that she learned from Angel, by being on the receiving end, in her time over there. Though, obviously, treating Dana will be much more difficult than treating Faith had been. Faith wasn't nearly as far gone (though significantly more actively evil).

But then there's the fact that Buffy showed up on Angel at that point and made it abundantly clear how she wanted to deal with a fallen slayer. Yes, it was very personal, but that just means that she's not good on objectively judging things.

If they were honestly afraid that Angel had turned or was turning evil, they would have sent Faith. If they honestly felt like dealing with a fallen Slayer as a person, they would have sent Faith. If any of their stated concerns were actually things they considered legitimate, they would have sent Faith. Because if you think Angel (not Angelus) has joined the side of evil, Faith is who you send. Doubly so if that evil is named Wolfram and Hart with which Faith has first hand experience. But that's only if you care whether or not it's actually true.

And given that the ending of Buffy had messages like: Faith and Buffy disagree, people follow Faith, people go boom. And, "It feels like it belongs to me, that must mean its yours," (not an exact quote, but Faith's response to touching the magic weapon was pretty much that) it seemed to be the case that Buffy would be the one calling the shots, not Faith. Not a coconsulate between the two.

Angel is the only living (existing?) being who has ever successfully brought a Slayer back from a state that remotely even resembles that of Dana. Faith is the only one who was brought back. Buffy is the one who said it wasn't worth the effort. (And skipped out on warning Faith that people would be coming to kill her after Faith had redeemed. And yes, I know Willow takes some of the blame for that on herself.)

So, yeah, if I thought that it were Faith's organization, I'd believe Dana stood a chance with the Slayers. I don't think it's Faith's organization.

DavidCheatham said...

It isn't debatable that team Buffy, represented this time by Giles the murderer, refused to even consider helping to deal with what happened to Fred.

Oh, and as I didn't remember this, so had to go back and check the episode: Giles isn't even mentioned in that episode. At all. Here's the transcript, search for 'Rupert' and 'Giles':
http://www.buffyworld.com/angel/transcripts/103_tran.html

I don't know why you think he refused to help.

In fact, Giles was supposed to _appear_ in that episode (Which is probably why the opening to the well was in England), to be the person who explained there wasn't any way to save Fred without killing everyone between here and there, as someone the audience, along with Spike and Angel, would automatically believe. But that would have been too expensive to fly him over for that scene (The actor lives in England), apparently, so they created the guy who can't lie.

chris the cynic said...

It was the next episode. After it was too late but before anyone knew it was too late.

Ana Mardoll said...

So you've got Buffy dead to rights: If old allies show up with a book of dubious orgins that might help with the problem at hand, she will read those books! *gasp* Meanwhile, she will distrust old allies who apparently decide to start working for evil organizations.

Moderator Notice

Please watch how you discuss things in this space. Sarcasm, mocking, etc. need to be kept to a minimum. I do require that a tone of respect be maintained -- this is not Flame War Central.

This goes for everyone, by the way, but is specifically directed at the gasping in this comment. Thank you.

DavidCheatham said...

TW: child abuse, torture, mental illness

You seem to see Dana as a slayer that turned into a monster, like Faith. That's...not how I see her.

Dana's family was murdered in front of her, and she was kidnapped as a small child, tortured for years, and according to the doctor, mostly catatonic since then. Presumable she was suffering catatonic schizophrenia. And that's _without_ all the Slayer baggage and memories.

Then her Slayer activation 'healed' her enough to un-catatonic her, without actually fixing her mind. And while pumping a lot of random images and memories into her mind.

Spike says it flippantly, but in this case, Dana _did_ have all the symptoms of being psychotic, and was completely out of touch with reality. It's entirely possible that Dana doesn't even have a sense of self anymore.

She didn't choose evil, she didn't make a mistake and go into denial, she wasn't filled with the self-loathing and guilt Faith was. Faith was never psychotic. Faith really didn't resemble Dana at all.

Faith and Angel might be more _sympathic_ to Dana than Buffy (As might Willow, who arguably has experienced a psychotic break.), but I don't see any indications they'd be able to make her condition better at all. I'm not entirely sure anyone will...actual medical professionals didn't make headway in the years they had her _without_ the massive added problems of Slayer-ness. (It's possible the Slayer powers will eventually heal her, but that would happen without outside intervention if so.)

depizan said...

I honestly don't know where I got the "is darker" impression. I agree that there's a lot of dark stuff in A:tLA, even though it's basically an optimistic story. I need to get past that impression and watch LoK. I really do.

DavidCheatham said...

Reading that conversation as Giles refusing to help is reading a lot into it. Angel was asking for Willow, who could not be reached.

Then we get this line from Angel: Yeah, I'm still at Wolfram & Hart . What does that have to do with anything? Yeah. I understand. (throws phone against the wall; it shatters) We're on our own.

You can, if you want, read that as Giles refusing to help because they're at W&H. I don't see it that way, because he'd apparently been perfectly willing to put them in touch with Willow ten seconds earlier.

I see Giles asking that question while Angel is still on the line, and Angel getting defensive (Because he knows the only reason Fred is dead is because of that.) and giving up the conversation.

Timothy (TRiG) said...

I'm finding it hard to think of many "Chosen One" stories I've read/watched. (Well, except Kung Pow, which I saw the other day.) Aragorn, though, is something of a chosen one, even though he's not the main hero. He's the designated heir, and that's that. He may not win, but he will be noble, and have the healing hands of a king, and yadda yadda yadda. And if he does win (and we know he will), he will rule by right. Oh, and he has NĂºmenorean blood, too.

Sorry, but anything about inheritance or "the right divine of kings to govern wrong" will rub me up the wrong way.

Personally, I quite like Terry Pratchett's take on Macbeth, in Weird Sisters, which ends with Nanny Ogg saying "bugger destiny", and meaning it. (Bugger royalty too.)

Also, there's the strangely awesome "novel"/thingy The Path of the King, which my parents have as a small hardback book and which I first read on a school trip to somewhere (one must do something on the bus, after all), and which has stayed with me ever since. If that doesn't count as a somewhat cynical look at the meaning of the royal line, I don't know what does.

So, I'd like to see less of: Inherited ability, inherited rights, and "having X blood".

TRiG.

chris the cynic said...

You seem to see Dana as a slayer that turned into a monster

Not even close. I see her primarily as someone who was severely traumatized and then got a crappy doctor on top of it.

That's why I've repeatedly stressed how Wolfram and Hart's resources give the potential of getting the best therapists money can buy. As far as we know team Buffy has no such resources. In fact, given the statements of their representative, it doesn't seem to have ever occurred to them that they might need access to mental health professionals.

On that alone I think that she'd be better off with the law firm's resources trying to help her than the rag tag team that just blew up small town America and left with nothing but a schoolbus.

I think taking her away from the people with access to all the therapists and psychologists and psychiatrists anyone could name to go to location unknown with the people who don't even try to determine evil before pronouncing one evil is a bad idea to begin with.

And it's not like the evil forces at Wolfram and Hart don't want her sane just as much as anyone on the side of good. A sane slayer is an asset, Dana in her present state is not. So, right off the top, everyone's interests are aligned, except you know as well as I do that no one on team Angel would let Wolfram and Hart not-LA get their hands on that girl, so it never really mattered what the evil forces wanted.

-

But when you say, "There are two organizations that can deal with Dana," I don't think you're talking about the mental health side of things since there's lots of organizations that can deal with that side of things. Can they all do it as well as the place with evil money, probably not, but there's definitely more than two.

So I think you're talking about the Slayer side of things.

And on that side we've got a couple points. The only one we know of to ever break Dana free of her delusions after Slayerification made everything worse was Spike. Mind you after that she still decided to go the evil route, which implies that there are moral problems to be dealt with here as well.

The only one to ever rehabilitate a slayer was Angel.

The only ones to make an effort to understand her during the episode were the people on Angel's team, not the Slayer's team.

If we're talking mundane mental health, team Angel has the edge. If we're talking slayer redemption, team Angel also has the edge, but team Buffy at least includes the person who was redeemed. If we're talking about proven results with Dana herself, team Angel has them (via Spike), team Buffy does not.

Three for three the better outcome for her would seem to be on the side of leaving her in LA.

Except I left out making an effort to understand what happened to her, so make that four for four on the side of leaving her in LA.

Now some of this can be laid at the feet of the courier, he wasn't willing to call home base update them on the situation, and ask what to do. Buffy's organization didn't know that the only one who managed to help her separate delusion from reality (and do it while her captive no less) was someone they were taking her away from. Buffy's organization doesn't know about who has been putting an effort into understanding what happened to Dana.

But there's also another point, they never bothered to find out. The mission didn't seem to call for finding out what was best for Dana. Which is, itself, disturbing.

-

And I left out, the only ones who proved capable of catching her if something went wrong... not team Buffy.

chris the cynic said...

You left out the way he gave out the information, at each stage withholding a critical bit, she's in the Himalayas sounds like useful information until Angel tries to make use of it, at which point it's added, doesn't matter that she's there because she's not on this plane of existence. Which seems useful until Angel tries to make use of it, at which point Angel is put on hold.

Then as soon as he's off hold the question is asked, is he still there, Angel asks what that has to do with anything, Giles tells him, and the conversation is over.

The information Giles gave, if true, was given in such a way as to draw things out and not give straight answers. If not true, then it was just to get him to give up.

Either way, Giles refused to help. If the first question you ask when letting someone whose friend has been taken over by an ancient demon on getting off hold is, "Are you still at that place I have a grudge against?" and you manage to get the person to break the phone when you tell them why you asked, you're not helping. You're not trying to help.

Lonespark said...

I am really excited for the next season of Korra, with lots of new characters! If you start watching Book 1 I will be excited on your behalf, seeing it for the first time.

Lonespark said...

This conversation is fascinating although I have no frame of reference. My brother always wanted to watch Buffy on Friday nights, but I wanted to watch Xena, so we had to take turns.

chris the cynic said...

Honestly, unless I can get the temperature in my house to drop by 20 degrees (no air conditioner, I count on it getting cool at night which it hasn't been doing) I think I'm going to have to drop out of this thread because my brain is melting. So my contribution to your fascination may have to end for the foreseeable future.

Silver Adept said...

I, too, will be excited for someone watching Korra. The setting is a little more willing to acknowledge that things are not going anywhere near according to plan, which might be more why it gets the Darker designation - but the things that are going pear-shaped are usually political, not personal with awful consequences. (I'd say Korra is lighter than .hack in presentation, for reference.)

DavidCheatham said...

You left out the way he gave out the information, at each stage withholding a critical bit, she's in the Himalayas sounds like useful information until Angel tries to make use of it, at which point it's added, doesn't matter that she's there because she's not on this plane of existence. Which seems useful until Angel tries to make use of it, at which point Angel is put on hold.

You're reading stuff in there that isn't there. That entire part of the conversation takes about 10 seconds, so as stalling tactic, it would be supremely useless.

And Giles puts him on hold when he asks 'Is there anyway to get her astral to LA?'...a question that has a perfectly legitimate reason to put Angel on hold so he can call her location, or use some sort of magic, and find out. And he's on hold for three minutes, so it _that_ would be a rather useless stalling tactic also.

Here is an entirely plausible conversation for Giles and Angel to be having. I've marked things that actually were said with a *:

Angel: Hey, Giles, I called Willow, but her cellphone apparently doesn't work in Rio de Janiro, do you have a number for her?

Giles: She's not there any more, she's in the Himalayas.

Angel: Himalayas? I thought she was in South America. *

Giles: And you can't get in touch with her anyway, she's not on this plane.

Angel: Alright, look- (sighs) What do you mean she's not on this plane? You just said— *

Giles: She's insert techobabble about astral projection.

Angel: Astral projection? Well, is there any way to get her astral over to L.A.? Giles, this is an emergency. *

Giles: Let me call the shaman who guided her, see if he can contact her spirit. I'll call you back.

Angel: No. No, I'm not going— *

Giles: Then hold for a minute. (Puts Angel on hold)

Angel: Don't put me on hold. *

--- A few minutes later:

Giles: The shaman wasn't able to get in touch with her. I know a spirit I can contact, tonight, that might be able to. But, uh, you're at Wolfram & Hart.

Angel: (annoyed) Yeah, I'm still at Wolfram & Hart. What does that have to do with anything? *

Giles: He's not a fan. We'll have to leave your name out of it.

Angel: (belligerently) Yeah? *

Giles: You realize that by being involved with the Old Ones-

Angel: I understand. (throws phone) We're on our own. *

Now, I'm not saying that was the actual conversation, but while I _could_ see Giles refusing to help Angel because Angel worked at W&H (If Giles didn't understand the situation) but I can't see Giles jerking Angel around by putting him on hold and pretending to help. Giles does not act like that.

And if Giles refused to help, Angel would demand to talk to Buffy. I mean, it's not like Angel wanted something complicated from Giles...he just wanted to _call Willow_. He knows half a dozen people from Sunnydale who can get in touch with her. (Faith, at the very least, would help.) Angel letting Giles keeping him from talking to Willow, and then just giving up at that point, is rather odd behavior on his part.

Thus the reasonable conclusion is Angel was satisfied with Giles explanation/attempt at contacting her. And I also conclude the annoyance is due to Giles attempting to talk about W&H in some manner, although it's entirely possible he was just annoyed in general at Willow's lack of reachability.

DavidCheatham said...

If we're talking slayer redemption, team Angel also has the edge, but team Buffy at least includes the person who was redeemed.

Dana was not 'evil'. She didn't make bad choices, under the influence of demons or otherwise. She does not need to reform, she does not need redemption, she does not need an epiphany, she does not need empathy for others or someone to talk to.

She was psychotic.

By the end of the episode she seems somewhat recovered, to the extent that she knows who she is, is speaking English, and she's fighting vampires and _possibly_ won't attack humans.

So I have to suggest that perhaps a vampire is not exactly the best entity to try to help her. And slayers in general can sense vampires, which is probably why she attacked Angel. (Buffy's slayer powers are defective in that regard for some unknown reason.)

Later on, when she can actually be trusted to interact with people, it is entirely possible she will then need some sort counseling, someone to understand what she's going through with all that guilt of her actions. An argument can be made that Angel would be better (He's killed a lot more people than Faith, and wasn't really in his right mind either.) or that Faith would be better (As she is, in fact, a human. And a slayer)

But that's a future problem. Right now, she needs to stop killing everything she sees, and get some sort of grasp of reality.

I think taking her away from the people with access to all the therapists and psychologists and psychiatrists anyone could name to go to location unknown with the people who don't even try to determine evil before pronouncing one evil is a bad idea to begin with.

This seems to be begging the question. It relies on the premise that W&H _isn't_ evil. And the problem is...W&H appears to actually be evil.

As far as we know team Buffy has no such resources.

I'm not sure where you want to go with 'as far as we know'. The new Council has a _lot_ of resources, although we don't learn that on TV. In the comics, they live in a frickin castle and have robbed a bank. (Presumably an evil one, I forget.)

But even limiting it to the TV show, we see them fly a dozen people to LA, and have sent assets all over the world, so can't exactly be dirt poor. And the remains of the old council, in the last season of Buffy, appear to have thrown in behind Giles to protect potentials, so presumably he ended up with all their resources also.

In fact, given the statements of their representative, it doesn't seem to have ever occurred to them that they might need access to mental health professionals.

Given the statements of their representative, Faith once killed a Vulcan.

Andrew is presumably not in charge of the care of Dana.

So, right off the top, everyone's interests are aligned, except you know as well as I do that no one on team Angel would let Wolfram and Hart not-LA get their hands on that girl, so it never really mattered what the evil forces wanted.

Four episodes later, one of _his own team_ gets killed. Even assuming the Senior Partners were going to behave completely honestly and not stab Angel in the back, W&H is still staffed by _evil people_.

Rikalous said...

As far as I remember, nothing bad happens to the pets, and I'm pretty sure I would have remembered something that awful, so it should be safe.

Julie McGalliard said...

I happen to have just watched this episode. My take on it was that her re-enacting her past traumas with Spike, only with her in the position of power, had gone a long way toward putting her on the mental road to recovery.

Dragoness Eclectic said...

The wife who micromanages her husband's personal life because he can't take care of himself, and this is a reason for admiration and evidence of being strong/competent. Terry Pratchett, I adore you in everything else, but this has to stop.

?? I read a lot of Discworld, and I don't remember this.

Dragoness Eclectic said...

Oh, and the quirky detective who is ALWAYS right, and yet somehow the chief forgets that they are right and refuses to listen to them the next time, and is always threatening to take away their badge.

Subverted* by Lt. Columbo, who is quirky, extremely effective, and never gets removed from a case or overruled by higher officials in response to pressure by politically-connected suspects. Apparently his superiors are well aware of just how good he is at his job and value him for it.

*OMG, this isn't TVTropes? ;-)

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